On May 19, Marie Carpinelli of Cranston tried soy milk for the first time. While working at home, she became hungry and decided to get a bowl of cereal.
Within five minutes after finishing a cup of the soy milk, her ears and throat became a little itchy.
“This is a typical reaction to something I am allergic to, but it normally does not lead to much more than that,” said Marie. This time, however, it did.
Marie’s twin sister, Meg Carpinelli, was just about to leave the house and said to Marie, “Just throw it out and don’t take any chances.” Marie found herself home alone with the allergic reaction getting worse.
“About 15 to 20 minutes later, I started getting severe abdominal pains and then stomach distress. After another 10 to 15 minutes, feeling quite awful, I started to feel like my arms, neck, chest and back were burning,” she said.
“I ran to the kitchen and grabbed my cell phone and my EpiPen, just to be safe. I started to get confused and, without my even remembering doing it, messaged my boss that I thought I was having a reaction to something I ate and that I may need to get some medical attention.
“I then texted my sister – again, I don’t even remember doing this – telling her that I thought I needed to go to the ER. By this point, I looked in the mirror and remember seeing that my face was swollen, my eyes were almost shut and everything was flame red, including my ears.”
She got worse, as it felt like someone reached in her throat and started squeezing.
“I’m not sure whether I called Meg or she called me … either way, she could hear that something was wrong and started to scream to me to use my EpiPen and call 911, and that she was on her way home,” said Marie. “I tried calling 911 from my cell phone.”
Marie was dispatched to R.I. 911, and they were able to identify that she needed help in Cranston.
“However, when I reached Cranston 911, they at first couldn’t understand me, as my throat and tongue were swollen and I was so disoriented,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out how to use my EpiPen, even though I knew how to use it! I was scared.”
After what seemed liked forever, Meg came rushing through the door and grabbed the EpiPen. After a very brief moment, she figured it out enough to administer it to her sister. At the same time, she was talking to the 911 dispatcher to get the rescue to the house.
“Within moments, relief started,” said Marie. “The rescue arrived and they got me in the back of the rescue pretty quickly, where they administered Benadryl and started monitoring my vitals. Unfortunately, I still needed to be transported to the hospital for emergency care. I had tachycardia and my blood pressure was through the roof. I was still flame red, disoriented, nauseous and dizzy. I went to Rhode Island Hospital and was rather quickly put into level two critical care where they monitored me and administered medications to me for the next eight hours. About four hours in, I had a flare up … which caused me to be kept there for the next four hours. They keep you on medications for the next 72 hours, as that is the period of time that it can stay in your system and flare back up.”
One of the three doctors treating Marie advised her that either she is allergic to soy in general or her body’s immunity against it finally failed. She may also be allergic to only the component of soy that is utilized in milk or the specific brand, or there may have been a rare cross-contamination with almond milk. At this time, she is avoiding all soy products to be on the safe side.
“One of the doctors advised me that had Meg not shown up when she did, I would have very possibly died. It was such a severe reaction and without that EpiPen injection or immediate medical attention, I could have died within the next five to 10 minutes,” said Marie. “She literally saved my life.
“There’s this unbelievable bond between identical twins. It’s indescribable, and I feel that only another identical twin can adequately understand that bond. Having an identical twin save your life? There are simply no words created to describe the bond now, the amount of gratitude to be alive. The amount of gratitude that she was confident enough and strong enough to proceed with the level of care she provided, despite seeing me in the condition that I was in – it’s a whole new chapter in our lives.”
Marie then realized that she needed to have a medical alert notification on her at all times. Fortunately, I have a very close friend who had posted several times on Facebook about a medical alert device that his cousin had developed. His cousin came up with the creation after his son was diagnosed with diabetes. After the events on Monday, I got in contact with my friend Chris and asked him for the name of his cousin’s product. It is called HealthID Profile, or HIP.
“I felt I was in need of something that stored all of my information, rather than the piece of paper I had in my pocketbook that no one knew about, and which I wasn’t able to get in my possession in the ER until they allowed my sister back with me, some 45 minutes or so after I got there,” said Marie.
She also realized that it was not enough to have an EpiPen, but that she also needed to be sure that others around her knew where it was kept and how to proceed with an injection if needed.
Marie also realized she previously had a cavalier attitude about her allergies and had to be more proactive.
“Current estimates put allergy-related deaths at over 1,500 per year in the United States. I have already had three different people tell me about someone they knew who died of such a reaction,” she said. “I have become much more conscious about my choices, and also about being more conscious of the environment around me. The person next to you may have a severe allergy to your perfume, your food choice – virtually every choice you make. We all live together. We need to respect the life of each other … and you have to absolutely be of the frame of mind to not wait to act. The further down the rabbit hole you go, the harder it is to get out of.”
Now, Marie is happy to be sporting a HIP bracelet with all of her medical information on file.
“This device is it,” she said. “And I believe that as much as it needs to become common knowledge [like CPR and AED] on the use of EpiPens, it should also become equally as well known on the new technology out there for medical identification information to be shared and how to obtain the information. It doesn’t do me much good to have the alert bracelet and card if it does not become common knowledge on how to obtain the often lifesaving and helpful information contained within, especially by first responders.”
“Everyone wants their loved ones to be happy and healthy, especially when it comes to their children,” said Angelo Pitassi Jr. of Cranston, founder and CEO of HealthID.
The inspiration for the company came after Pitassi’s youngest son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“I was amazed at the lack of innovation in this space,” he said. “Managing your personal health information isn’t easy, but it should be. There needed to be one simple solution.”
HealthID’s technology activates with a tap from any near field communication (NFC) enabled smartphone to immediately view a person’s emergency medical information. The same medical profile can also be accessed from any smartphone or computer by entering the unique HIP code located on every HealthID product at www.healthid.com.
As with all technology, the HealthID card and bracelet is still developing.
“I was very willing to provide my feedback to Angelo Pitassi after I received the device,” said Marie. “It’s super easy to use. You go to the website, enter your product code, fill in all of your information and submit. You’re done.
“I am feeling passionate about wanting to ensure that the word gets out, especially to first responders, that this type of technology exists and should be looked for in the time of an emergency, when appropriate,” she continued.
HIP focuses on three key areas: medication compliance, chronic disease management and efficient communication of personal medical information in either an emergency or routine doctor’s visit. It offers users the ability to manage medications and receive reminders, and to track glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
HealthID also offers a place to upload documents or images such as MRIs, EKGs, X-rays and lab results.
Many lessons were learned that almost fateful day for Marie.
“Never wait for tomorrow if you don’t have to,” she said. “Say it, do it, buy it, try it, be thankful for it – today. This afternoon isn’t promised to us, let alone tomorrow.”