Grove woman designs fashionable medical bracelets

After an epilepsy diagnosis, a Coconut Grove woman came up with a fashion-forward line of medical-alert bracelets.

Aliette Vazquez, public relations representative for Neiman Marcus, left the store with a car full of clothes for models to wear at a show later that day. But as soon as she pulled out of the driveway, the 24-year-old began to feel strangely disoriented.

“I was feeling very confused,” Vazquez said, “But it was only one block away so I kept on driving and telling myself ‘wake up, wake up.’ ” Her attempt to focus didn’t work, and she crashed into a van in front of her.

Vazquez didn’t have a history of serious medical problems before that day in November 2004 when she had her first seizure. A week later, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, prone to grand mal seizures.

“Those are the worst ones,” she said. “It’s when you start shaking and foaming at the mouth.”

The diagnosis marked the end of one career path and the beginning of another: creator of a fashion-forward line of medical-alert bracelets.

“I had to quit my job at Neiman Marcus,” Vazquez said. “Everything changed, emotionally and physically.”

One thing that didn’t change was her love of fashion. She studied fashion merchandising at the Miami International University of Art and Design, worked as a representative for Ralph Lauren, and had a fashion and pop segment on the Michael Yo Show on radio station Y100.

And the generic medical bracelet she now had to wear just didn’t cut it.

“They were for viejos,” said Vazquez, who lives in Coconut Grove. “They looked like dog tags. And they were not only tacky, but also expensive.”

This drove Vazquez, now 31, to create Medirocks, a line of stylish medical bracelets.

“Aliette has been able turn what people may think is devastating to something positive and fashionable at the same time,” said close friend Gemma Jordan, 32. “Not an easy task.”

Three years ago Vazquez partnered with jewelry designer Lisa Stewart, whom she had met at Fashion Week in New York City. Stewart’s designs have been purchased by celebrities Nicole Ricci, Jennifer Lopez and Ashlee Simpson.

The bracelets they came up with have a plate in gold, silver or matte on which the appropriate medical symbol is engraved. It’s attached to a leather straps in a cuff or wrap style that gives the bracelets a rocker-chic vibe. They sell for $75 to $85.

A laminated card with the customer’s name, address, doctor and condition comes with each bracelet. That’s to accommodate paramedics who are trained to search a bracelet-wearing patient’s wallet and belongings for additional information.

Her second collection, “Lifesavers,” is designed for kids and made of recycled silicon. The bracelets cost $20.

“It’s hard to be a kid on the playground. There are bullies and kids making fun of each other,” Vazquez said. “They won’t be embarrassed to wear the bracelets because it’s like any other bracelet a kid will wear.”

Vazquez kept in mind that kids can’t always explain what disease or allergies they have. Therefore, they’re custom made with the condition or allergy inscribed on it. Each bracelet also comes with a single wrapped lifesaver and 10 silly bands: bracelets that form into animal shapes.

“Aliette is a very driven person,” said her brother, Javier, 33. “Her goal is to take a negative situation and make it a positive one.”

She hopes her ambition pays off.

“I already promised my fiancé [Aizik Wolf] a private jet. So, I really have to work hard now,” she said with a laugh.

Vazquez’s life has changed drastically since her first seizure. If she gets a headache, she can’t help but wonder if a seizure is coming on. If she gets too stressed, she is prone to a seizure. And when she is alone, her family worries about her.

“My mom does so much of the worrying, I don’t have to,” Vazquez said with a laugh.

She not only created a way to help others and herself, she has also developed a new outlook on life.

“It’s about being happy, no matter what your situation is,” she said. “It’s about loving yourself enough to relax.”

Source : miamiherald.com