New dictate I'd made it through surgery to implant a defibrillator. But I wasn't sure I could stand what came after: one of those clunky ID bracelets that tell medical personnel or unlucky bystanders that you have a condition requiring special attention.

New option Fortunately, a friend introduced me to Lauren's Hope, a firm that specializes in medical ID bracelets that look more like jewelry. The designs -- for men and women -- range from fun and funky (brightly colored glass beads) to sleek and sophisticated (black onyx and sterling silver beads). I chose the hematite, an oblong, blue-gray bead and sterling silver bracelet that pairs nicely with my watch. The portion of the bracelet that contains the standard ID tag with its red medical symbol is worn discreetly on the inside of the wrist.

Mothers of invention Denise Gaskill and LeAnn Carlson, founders of Lauren's Hope, are stay-at-home moms from Kansas City, Mo. Ten years ago they began selling personalized gifts and bracelets at craft fairs. Three years ago, Gaskill's friend Camille Philips came to her about her daughter Lauren, who has type 1 diabetes. Lauren, 13 at the time, refused to wear her medical ID bracelet because it was ugly.

After Gaskill designed a bracelet for Lauren, she and Carlson realized there was an untapped market. They now produce up to 500 bracelets a month for a variety of medical conditions, from penicillin allergies to heart conditions to breast cancer.

"What's big right now -- and it's amazing to me because I never thought it would impact our business -- is everyone who's had a gastric bypass," Gaskill said. "They have to wear medical ID bracelets. So that's been huge."

-- Kathy Orton