Last week Robin Rhoderick, 59, of Mount Airy replaced the medical alert bracelet she had worn for 50 years with a more permanent ID.
Rhoderick had her medical condition, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, tattooed onto her arm at Inner Soul Ink in Mount Airy. She added wings to the standard medical alert icon, which includes a red star and a snake wrapped around a staff, for her tattoo that was placed on her arm. Underneath it are the words “21 hydroxylase deficiency,” a form of the inherited disorder of the adrenal glands. The disorder causes her to be unable to produce normal levels of aldosterone, a hormone that helps the body regulate blood pressure.
The bracelet — which Rhoderick got with an 18-carat gold pendant — cost about $1,000 and warns doctors of her condition in case of an accident.
Rhoderick was one of several area residents to get a tattooed warning of their serious medical conditions Nov. 29 at Inner Soul Ink.
At least three participants will be featured in a four-minute special about the local parlor and the trend of medical alert tattoos by Voice of America, the official broadcast institution of the United States government. Jeffery Grimet, 40, owner of Inner Soul Ink at 1001 Twin Arch Road, learned about the three participants’ conditions while tattooing them previously and asked them if they would be featured in the film.
Grimet said he has inked between 60 and 80 medical alert tattoos in his 20-year career, including one he did more than a year ago that featured Mr. Peanut — the Planters advertising logo — requested by a man with a peanut allergy.
Grimet said VOA contacted him to be a part of the special a few weeks ago. The Mount Airy shop opened in August.
“I think that it’s a really good, quality idea,” Grimet said. “It’s something that’s never going to go away, much like the person’s [condition]. Anything that’s going to take away that worry for them is good.”
It took one day to film the special — Nov. 29 — and Inner Soul will be the only parlor featured in the project.
The price and size of each tattoo is determined by the size the customer requests, Grimet said.
“It’s not common for tattoo shops to do medical tattoos, not many are doing it,” said Faiza Elmasry, a VOA feature writer with the project. “It’s something relatively new, and many people are finding it very convenient.”
Rhoderick said she decided to get an alert tattoo because she occasionally loses her bracelet.
“Because of the seriousness of my condition ... it’s very important to have [the bracelet],” she said. “[The tattoo] is perfect for me. In an emergency I can lose [my bracelet], I can’t lose the tattoo.”
Denise Conant, 39, of Westminster, said Nov. 29 that she would feel a sense of relief once she got her tattoo.
“I’ll feel safer,” she said. “That’ll be the one tattoo that will save my life.”
In 2005, Conant found out during a routine doctor’s visit that she was allergic to iodine contrast, a dye used in radiological tests, such as CAT scans.
“When they gave it to me I broke out in hives and had shortness of breath,” she said.
After that Conant was advised to wear an alert bracelet but never got around to getting one. During filming, she got a skull with the medical alert icon on its forehead.
“It’s different,” she said with a laugh.
Elmasry said the special does not have a release date at this time, but once complete it will be published online on the VOA website at www.voanews.com.