Anyone living with Hidradenitis Suppurativa knows the score… sore, oozing and draining skin, and the constant worry of springing a leak unexpectedly. I’ve lived with this since I was a young teen. One day it all got too much to manage and led me to set up my own wound care company.
I was frustrated. Adhesive dressings damaged my skin. Alternative tapes and bandages took too long to apply and get right. It really started to impact my life.
Every morning brought me a new challenge; drain what lesions would drain, clean the area, shower, add some cream sometimes, and then apply a dressing. I had tried every combination of dressing available to me, I was cutting and adapting all sorts of absorbent items, sanitary towels, kitchen rolls, bandages, tapes, adhesive dressings, absorbent pads. All this wound management to do even before I had my breakfast! Most people would be out the door on the way to work by the time I was bandaged and ready to go. Sometimes I would get so fed up I wouldn’t use anything at all and just let it drain onto my clothes… which wasn’t great for my self-esteem, or the laundry pile.
I wanted to live my life to the full, and not let HS hold me back, but the constant worry about leaks and a dressing falling out was beginning to take its toll on me. I’d had an idea to make a dressing solution that would help me, and after a particularly embarrassing dressing drop, I promised myself I would pursue making my idea a reality, but I wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
I eventually contacted a product designer in 2014.
This is the exact message I sent that changed the trajectory of my career –
I met the designer for some basic prototyping which proved that my idea was viable. At this point, I was funding this work with my life savings, and after several months, I had to put a pause on the project as I was running out of money.
In 2016, Enterprise Ireland, a government organisation, awarded me with a grant that allowed me to develop another prototype. While the EI grant was amazing, the grant only covered 50% of the costs. I was still funding the development out of my own pocket.
The 2nd prototype took almost 18 months to complete, and while this was ongoing, I started talking to other people living with HS online. I quickly realised that I was not alone in my frustrations, and in fact, there were a lot of people struggling with the same issues as me. This spurred me on. I was very troubled by the stories I was hearing from these other HS warriors. I knew I had to continue with my project.
Once I had the new prototype, I was able to show it to an organisation called the Health Innovation Hub, who encouraged me to apply for a new innovation programme at The National University of Ireland Galway called BioExel.This was the turning point for me.
In 2017 I applied and presented my idea and prototype to a panel of judges. They were all appalled by the lack of awareness of HS and the impact it has on a person’s life. In 2018, I was selected and joined the first cohort. The programme was 6 months long and throughout this, I was trained in everything I need to know about product development, medical devices, clinical trials, regulatory requirements and building a business. I had some previous business experience, but nothing like this.
At the end of the 6 months, after receiving feedback on the product from industry experts, clinicians and people living with HS, I decided to sell my previous business (a bakery) and pursue my work with HidraMed Solutions full time. Fast forward two years, my first product, HidraWear is now on the market.
HidraWear AX, our first product is designed for women with HS in the armpit. It is a wound care kit comprising of 3 parts:
- HidraWear garment
- Super absorbent dressing
- The external fastener
The garment has been intuitively designed for maximum comfort. It is very adjustable to ensure a bespoke fit and features outward-facing seams to reduce chaffing. The material we selected is very soft and breathable, and it wicks moisture away from the skin. There is a very specialised panel printed onto the armpit area which ensures the area remains fully breathable but also protects from unexpected leaks. It is here that we have carefully cut holes into the armpit area, which are designed to work with the dressing and fastener.
The dressings are highly absorbent and contain an anti-strike through layer to minimise leaks. They are curved and have special fold lines to help them conform with the curves of the body (unlike the standard rectangle dressing). They are very soft against the skin and comfortable to wear.
The fastener is the key to providing secure dressing retention. A special micro Velcro dot on the fastener attaches to the dressing through the holes in the garment and holds it in place, without using any adhesives.
With HidraWear, dressing changes are very quick and easy. It has helped me and many others in our day to day lives.
In 2018 I began working with my colleague, Conan Cavanagh. Together we took every opportunity that came our way. Especially, if the opportunity was to speak publicly about HS and the impact of the disease.
Since then, we have grown our team to 5 full-time employees. The teamwork diligently to improve the lives of people living with HS, both by developing our HS specific wound care solutions, but also by providing articles and videos about HS and giving back to the HS community when we can.
HidraMed Solutions stands apart as it is patient-led and therefore always has patients’ best interests at its heart. Conan and I made sure to build a team that is committed to our goals of a meaningful change and improvement in the day to day lives of people living with HS.
HidraMed Solutions have and will always put the HS community first.