I remember when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1999; among the many things the diabetes educator discussed with me was purchasing a MedicAlert bracelet. The bracelet was a security measure, in case I had an extremely low blood sugar and became unable to communicate with other people or emergency responders. It also gave me an opportunity to list my other medical conditions, like Hepatitis C, and my allergies to certain medications (which aren't life threatening, but still important for medical personnel to know.)
It wasn't until I started blogging about heroes this month of June 2009 that I learned the story behind the MedicAlert bracelet, which is how I came to view Dr. Marion, Mrs. Chrissie and Linda Collins as modern day health care heroes.
Family Portrait (left)
Centered is Dr. Marion Collins, Michael, Linda, Chrissie Collins and young Tom.
On the MedicAlert website is the story of Linda Collins, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Collins of Turlock, California. She was injured while her parents were out of the country on vacation and taken to a local hospital for treatment. Since she had been cut badly enough to need medical attention, the doctors at the hospital wanted to give her a tetanus shot. Her uncle Dr. James Collins, who was the physician at the hospital treating her, followed the standard protocol of the day, which was to perform an allergy skin test of the tetanus antitoxin before giving her a full dose injection. Unfortunately, Linda went into anaphylactic shock, a severe allergic reaction to the skin test; she required several day of hospitalization and almost died.
After that traumatic incident, Linda went everywhere with a note pinned to her clothes listing her allergy to tetanus. However, by the time she was ready to leave home to go to college at Stanford University, she was lobbying her parents for a more permanent solution. Rejecting dog tags or a tattoo, she suggested to her parents a bracelet engraved with "Allergic to Tetanus Antitoxin" on the back. Her father Dr. Marion Collins designed the front with the rod of Asclepius (the snake entwined around a staff) and the words MedicAlert. Once at college, Linda got lots of comments on her bracelet and questions about how someone could get one of their own.
The Collin's family generously decided that, based on the feedback from Linda's bracelet, they needed to share their idea with others and established the non-profit MedicAlert Foundation International in 1956. The family invested $30,000 of their own money into the Foundation during the first two years, as well as countless volunteer hours and the family living room which became the Foundation's mail room in the early days. Dr. Collins said, "“We are not here to make money. We are here to save lives.”
Dr. Collins lead the Foundation as President and then Honorary Chairman of the Board until his death in 1977. His wife Chrissie then became the honorary leader and guiding presence for the Foundation until her death in 2001. The first member of MedicAlert, their daughter Linda Collins Maurer, passed away in 2004 at the age of 65 from breast cancer. Although they are no longer with us, they all have left a substantial legacy: a livesaving mission that is as important today as it was back in 1956. Today, over 4 million people around the world wear MedicAlert bracelets and there are MedicAlert office in 10 countries around the world.
MedicAlert has saved countless lives: you can read four testimontials on the MedicAlert website here. Saving lives is what makes MedicAlert and Dr. Marion, Mrs. Chrissie and Linda Collins health care heroes.
“I think I can save more lives with MedicAlert® than I’ll ever save with my scalpel.”
Dr. Marion C. Collins