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Local nonprofit, mother looking to raise awareness for medical alert designation on state-issued IDs

Following her son's death in a 2018 car crash, Heather Martin-Lazzarreti is pushing to raise awareness about a 2020 law allowing for medical designations on state-issued IDs and driver's licenses.

A sample Wyoming driver's license. If chosen, residents are able to have the Star of Life depicted on their licenses (WYDOT)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — It’s been nearly five years since local mother Heather Martin-Lazzaretti lost her son in a car crash, but through her, his lifelong passion for helping others lives on. 

On May 10, 2018, 21-year-old Cody Sams-Lazzaretti was involved in a crash on Highway 51 after his Chevrolet Suburban overturned while he was attempting to pass a Campbell County Fire Department rescue truck, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol. 

Despite sustaining a severe head injury, Cody, a high-functioning autistic adult, fought with first responders while they were trying to render aid, Heather recalled, adding that his condition would force her son into fight or flight mode whenever someone entered his personal space. 

Fortunately, there were people there who knew Cody and his condition, Heather said. They were able to advocate for him when he couldn’t.

Cody was transported by ambulance to Campbell County Memorial Hospital. He succumbed to his injuries later that night, the WHP says.

Heather says she misses Cody’s hugs most of all and described her son as a nonjudgemental person who would want to help anyone and everyone that he could. 

A picture of Cody Sams-Lazzarreti shown on a flier from Cody’s Puzzle Piece Foundation, provided by Heather Martin-Lazzarreti.

In the year following Cody’s death, questions soon arose and with them a problem that needed to be addressed: What if there hadn’t been someone there to advocate for Cody the night of the accident? How would first responders have known that he was autistic and would they have been able to respond appropriately if they didn’t?

Medical jewelry was a viable option in 2018 that first responders could use to identify medical conditions, Heather said. However, what if the patient didn’t have any or did but didn’t have it on them for some reason? 

The solution, she realized, would involve one of two things carried in the pockets of thousands of motorists and residents in Wyoming: their state-issued identification card or their driver’s license. 

Heather said if there was a space on ID cards reserved specifically for some sort of medical designation that first responders could rely on to discern a patient’s medical conditions, she believed it would help. 

Her solution sparked a movement that made it all the way to the 2019 Wyoming Legislative Session, where it resulted in the formation and passage of a new law, Heather said. 

The Star of Life (Shutterstock)

Heather’s nonprofit, Cody’s Puzzle Piece Foundation, calls it “Cody’s Law.” It gives residents the option to have an emergency medical alert designation depicted as the Star of Life on their driver’s licenses or identification cards, she said. 

If they choose to have the designation, residents can select from a provided list of medical conditions or list their own. Once the application is filed, the information is stored in a statewide database accessible by law enforcement in the event a resident is unable to communicate any medical conditions on their own during an emergency, according to Heather. 

She said her initial goal had been to get Cody’s Law passed in Wyoming, which became the first state to do so in 2019, but others have since followed suit and the issue is up for debate elsewhere. 

Now that she’s succeeded in her initial goal, Heather said she seeks to raise awareness about Cody’s Law through her nonprofit and is focusing on getting similar laws passed in every state.

“[Cody] helped anybody and everybody; this is one of the ways that we can keep Cody going,” Heather said.