Northamptonshire woman's mission to bring medical alert bracelets into the 21st century

A Northamptonshire woman, who suffers from narcolepsy, is hand-making stylish medical alert bracelets

Friday, 4th May 2018, 6:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 5:36 pm
Shelley Thomas started her business just before Christmas last year and said she's happy that people are not ashamed to wear the bracelets.

In 2004 Shelley Thomas, 42, of Towcester, was diagnosed with narcolepsy - a brain disorder that causes her to suddenly fall asleep - as well as cataplexy - sudden muscular weakness triggered by strong emotions.

At Heathrow airport, Shelley found herself unable to stand, and after landing in Vancouver, she suffered a major cataplexy attack and collapsed before being rushed to the hospital. Days later she was diagnosed with narcolepsy.

Shelley said: "My husband somehow managed to balance me and our luggage on a trolley but I remember trying to raise my arms to put my hair in a ponytail and finding I simply couldn’t.

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Since the business started she has made about 200 wristwear pieces.

"Over the next few days, I found I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without collapsing and by day four, I couldn’t even get to the bathroom on my own."

Shelley, who went back to work delivering leadership training three months after her narcolepsy diagnosis, wanted to set up her own medical alert bracelet business to bring wristwear into the 21st century.

15 years later, after completely unrelated spinal surgery last year, Shelley founded 'Buy A Medical Alert' to do exactly that.

She said: "Why? Because up until now I think they have been dull, expensive and in many cases just too obvious.

All of the bracelets are handmade.

"Yes, I want paramedics to know about my condition, but I don’t want to necessarily advertise it to the world. This is despite the fact that narcoleptics across the globe have been incorrectly given seizure medications, thought to be intoxicated with alcohol or illegal substances, suffered fractured ribs and punctured lungs whilst unnecessarily being subjected to CPR.

"For those of us with chronic conditions, allergies or a serious illness it’s imperative that we alert not only paramedics but our places of work, schools, friends, family and care-givers. This critical piece of information could be life-saving. I understood the logic perfectly but still chose not to wear one."

Shelley - who names her bracelet designs after famous medics - says the wristwear is all personally and individually engraved with medical information and contact details provided by the purchaser.

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