Bohemian, romantic, preppy and … medical chic?
Aliette Vazquez is hoping to add this new category to the lexicon of style with her new line of medical alert bracelets called MediRocks, which she hopes will save people’s lives and will help them see their medical conditions in a better light.
Traditional medical alert bracelets are metal and have a medical symbol on the front. People who might be prone to having a condition where they might be unable to speak but would need medical assistance are usually encouraged to wear one to ensure they can receive proper care when needed. Most of these bracelets look pretty clinical and draw a lot of attention to the medical symbol.
Vazquez thinks her line might shake up things up, in a good way.
“If you’re wearing something you’re not embarrassed about, it brings a positive spin to your condition,” she said.
She should know. The Miami Cuban is probably best known for being the former fiancé of Brazilian race car driver Hélio Castroneves. Fewer know that she has epilepsy.
It wasn’t until her mid-20s that she learned she had the condition. One fateful day seven years ago, she had her first seizure while behind the wheel of her car.
It was triggered by a brain hemorrhage that sent her into convulsions -- and into the back of a van. She regained consciousness in the hospital, where she awoke surrounded by her friends and family, who were filled with concern and sadness.
Her life changed, threatening her view of herself. Scary phrases like “cavernous angioma” started becoming part of her vocabulary. She became a regular visitor to the hospital laboratory and her local pharmacy. Her license was revoked for two years and has to be renewed every year, with the condition that she can prove she has not had a seizure while driving.
But she tried to remain positive.
“It was awkward to have my dad drop me off at a disco in South Beach and then pick me up at two in the morning,” she said. “But things like that made me laugh.”
However, it was the little things that brought her back to reality.
One of them was the medical alert bracelet. Though her doctor advised her to wear one, for years she refused. Ultimately, she bought a pink and purple kid’s bracelet as a compromise. Still, the fashion forward former buyer for Nieman Marcus said it didn’t go with much. Worse, it drew unwanted attention to her condition.
There aren’t many studies that indicate how many people comply with wearing medical alert bracelets, but reports estimate that only a little more than half of senior citizens whose doctors have advised them to wear such an indicator actually comply.
That doesn’t surprise Vazquez.
“People would always ask, ‘What is that? What’s wrong?’” she recalled. “It was more of a negative tone.”
In fashionable South Florida, she didn’t want to be literally wearing her medical condition on her sleeve so that it would be the main thing that defined her.
Vazquez launched her line in June. On the website medirocks.com, adult bracelets cost up to $85 while the children’s bracelets are $20. Vazquez said she plans to offer different styles each season, following a calendar similar to what you’d see in the fashion world. She said her fall line would be softer looking.
“(The bracelet) has a lot to do with attitude and the way you see things,” she said. “I think it affects how everybody sees you.”
Her customer, Kimberly Levy, agrees.
As an adult, Levy developed allergies to shellfish and nuts. Her reactions can be so severe they can prevent her from breathing. She has to carry an injection of epinephrine with her, particularly in restaurants regardless of how vigilant she is, to prevent her from suffocating during an attack. A bracelet would alert people that she’s got an allergy. She also carries a card that paramedics also check for and that comes with the MediRocks bracelets. The card indicates what she’s allergic to and medications she can take to help paramedics more effectively treat her.
As a jewelry designer herself, she says Vazquez’s alert bracelets reflect her personality and she often layers them with other accessories. That has helped her embrace her new condition as a part of her own style without attracting unwanted attention.
“Your condition doesn’t need to be a scene if you don’t need it to be,” she said.
Soni Sangha is a freelance writer based in New York City.