TRAVERSE CITY — Roger and Elaine Loeffelbein want to make sure another adult with disabilities won’t go through what their son did.
A motorist struck and badly injured Mark Loeffelbein, 50, in June while he was pedaling his bicycle across Carver Street in Traverse City. He told first responders not to take him to the hospital, insisting he was fine.
But Mark doesn’t have the ability to make medical decisions. He was born with Williams syndrome — a genetic condition that causes developmental delays, learning disabilities and cardiovascular complications — and his father is his legal guardian.
The medics who responded on June 11 didn’t know that, so they let Mark go home when he should have been hospitalized.
The Loeffelbeins know they couldn’t have prevented Mark’s broken collar bone, chipped shoulder, broken ribs and punctured lung, but they could have done more to help emergency personnel identify their son’s disability.
They’re now working to give first responders the information they need by providing medical identification bracelets for disabled adults free of charge.
“I think we’ll avert any kind of repeat circumstance like we had with Mark,” Roger Loeffelbein said.
The couple hopes the move will also give guardians peace of mind. The bracelets will come engraved with emergency contacts and medical information, all paid for by the Loeffelbein Foundation.
It’s a group effort between the Loeffelbeins, Grand Traverse Industries, local law enforcement, emergency medical services, Disability Network Northern Michigan, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, Munson Medical Center and local probate courts. Representatives from each organization began meeting during Mark’s recovery to try and implement extra protections for adults with disabilities.
“Obviously accidents aren’t going to be avoided, but if and when there’s an accident the first responders would have good information about who to contact,” said Steve Perdue, GTI’s president and CEO.
The solution doesn’t stop at the bracelets. Traverse City police interim Chief Jeff O’Brien said area law enforcement will be trained on what the ID bands mean and what officers should look for when they respond to calls.
“Our folks will see it in the field and they’ll know what to do,” O’Brien said. “If you have someone that can’t advocate for themselves, can’t have their own guardianship because of medical concerns, we want to be able to call someone.”
Mark is now recovered and back to peddling along his daily recreational bike route. He has added a neon flag to his bicycle and sports an ID bracelet like the ones his parents plan to purchase for others in the community, just in case something happens.
“We’re going to try and make something good out of a poor situation,” Roger Loeffelbein said. “When you can do that, you have to feel good about the way the community has coalesced on this thing.”
Perdue is already processing orders through GTI. Anyone interested in ordering an ID bracelet should call Perdue at 231-922-4886. Order forms are due Nov. 20.