Life / Health

Bracelet talks when she can’t

This spring, Fiona Stryjak-Smith is stuck indoors because of a severe allergy to tree pollen.

Her typical allergic reaction goes like this: it starts with itchy hives on her skin, then she gets flushing on her face and neck, then tingling on her tongue, followed by coughing. Finally, her airway in her throat closes, her blood pressure drops and she passes out. “I’ve had 94 anaphylactic reactions in the last four years,” she tells Metro.

Stryjak-Smith is a 42-year-old mother of two living in Winnipeg. Besides tree pollen she’s also allergic to wasps, latex, dust, bees and some metals. She has a rare disease called mastocytosis, which sends her allergic reactions into hyperdrive.

She tells her story to Metro to help remind Canadians that if they have allergies, membership in MedicAlert can save their lives. Stryjak-Smith wears a bracelet that tells first responders her situation and links them to a 24/7 hotline where they can get her full medical profile. Paramedics need to know, for instance, that touching her with latex gloves could kill her.

“It has saved me a number of times,” she says. “It tells first responders my situation. Sometimes I’m passed out and cannot speak for myself.”

Anyone with an allergy, anaphylaxis or asthma can benefit from MedicAlert membership, says Robert Ridge, president and CEO of the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation.

The fee is $24 to join, plus $5 a month and the cost of a MedicAlert ID (bracelet, cuff, watch or necklace.)

“Be safe people,” agrees Stryjak-Smith.

By the numbers

Here are some MedicAlert statistics:

•    Numbers. More than 1.1 million Canadians are members of MedicAlert

•    Allergies. Over 600,000 of these members have allergies

•    Threats. More than 50,000 of these are severe, life-threatening allergies.

•    Common. The most common life-threatening allergies are to penicillin, sulfa and peanuts

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