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Wristbands called patient safety risk

Hospitals want LiveStrong bracelets resembling DNR bands covered or removed.

Published December 10, 2004

The Lance Armstrong LiveStrong wristband, below, is similar to a wristband some hospitals use to identify patients who do not wish to be resuscitated, left.

Before you wear your cool yellow LiveStrong wristband at the hospital, think twice.

Several area hospitals are putting the brakes on Lance Armstrong's cancer organization fundraising bracelets. It's not cold-hearted backlash, but rather a safety precaution.

Patients wear colored bracelets to identify safety needs, said Lisa Johnson, vice president of patient services for Morton Plant Mease Health Care. Yellow stands for "do not resuscitate."

Patients are asked to remove the wristbands or cover them with white tape, she said.

"It could be confusing, particularly in the situation of a code or a cardiac arrest where people have to think very quickly," Johnson said. "We wouldn't want to mistake a Lance Armstrong bracelet and not resuscitate someone we're supposed to."

The rule holds at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey, Mease Dunedin, Mease Countryside, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg.

The hospitals, all associated with BayCare Health Systems, use the same color codes. Purple means the patient is at risk of falling down; red means the patient has allergies; and white is an identification bracelet.

Tampa General Hospital uses purple, not yellow, to identify people who don't want to be resuscitated. But hospital spokeswoman Ellen Fis s said she sympathizes with those who use yellow DNR bracelets.

"We can feel their pain, because it's a big job to train people to recognize them and know the difference," Fiss said. "That would be a difficult situation for them to be in."

While Tampa General does not yet make patients remove wristbands, she said the hospital would not rule out such a possibility if purple became the new yellow.

Officials at the Lance Armstrong Foundation declined to comment.

While LiveStrong bracelets are the most popular, with 28-million sold in all 50 states and in 60 countries, they are just one piece of the rubber wristband phenomenon., a site that sells items to benefit cancer research, sells a purple "hope" wristband and magenta "courage," "bravery" and "endurance" bands. Though no longer available through, the company's Baller ID wristbands, available in several colors, are sold on sports memorabilia web sites and The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's Puget Sound affiliate makes a pink "together" band, sold at New Balance stores.

A 10-pack of LiveStrong bracelets sells for $10, with demand so high that they can take up to a month to arrive. Through its web site,, Armstrong's foundation, which supports cancer education and research, sells about 150,000 a day.

Recently, Niketown and Discovery Channel stores began selling them.

The bracelets have become a must-have for the trendy and political alike. Celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon and Armstrong's gal pal Sheryl Crow wear them. John Kerry and President Bush sported the bracelets during campaign time.

Hospital officials said they support the foundation's efforts.

But, Johnson said, "It's very important that we constantly get the message out to our community that patient safety is our priority."

Times staff writer Shannon Colavecchio-VanSickler contributed to this report. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at (813)269-5303.

[Last modified December 9, 2004, 23:36:16]

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