From Concept to Reality
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The Story of Cymed Ostomy Co. & the MicroSkin® Ostomy Pouching System
by Dianne Eastman, founder and CEO
As Cymed Ostomy Co. celebrates its tenth anniversary, I reflect back on the time that the MicroSkin® Pouching System was merely a concept. . .
My Personal Experience
After urostomy surgery in 1982, I discovered that the pouching systems that were available belonged to the dinosaur age. I could not believe that the ostomy pouch manufacturers did not provide a better pouching system. I tried every product available on the US and foreign markets. They were all bulky and unyielding, they leaked, caused my skin to break down and fell off if I bathed, went swimming, or got into the shower or hot tub. With every new system I tried the results were always the same: frustration. I needed a system that would offer me security, comfort, freedom from skin irritation, and the freedom to participate in any activity, wet or dry, without being aware that I was wearing a pouching system. I also did not want to have to bother with tape or belts to secure the system.
Since my background is in the field of microbiology, cytology, and dermatology, I concluded that the primary problem with the existing products to which I had been exposed was the skin attachment. The attachment mechanism was either a paper tape attached to a wax-like material or sticky material that was attached to a very rigid plastic ring. These products melted, were stiff and unforgiving, leaked, and some caused severe skin irritation. None gave me a sense of security. All of this combined with the bulky profile of many of these products forced me into action! I had to find a material that would closely replicate human skin. This material would have to breathe, stretch as much as or more than human skin, and be as thin as possible and water repellent while being impervious to fluids excreted from the stoma. I also wanted the material to be clear in order to observe the health of the peristomal skin. The adhesive on this "dream" material would have to be moisture vapor permeable to be compatible and complete the fantasy that I had envisioned to replace the existing ostomy appliance.
The Search Begins
The dogged search of the ideal material began with the purchase of every brand of ostomy appliance that was sold in U.S. and foreign markets. I discovered that many of these products were simply variations on a theme. Without the brand-names or logos on the products, I could not differentiate one product from another! I was disappointed and more determined that ever to improve the state of ostomy appliances. Soon, this quest became an arduous task that required finding and testing numerous materials, mortgaging my home to raise adequate capital to start the patent process, designing and manufacturing many clinical trial products for testing, and obtaining FDA equivalency to market the potential ostomy appliance while still working full-time as a cytologist. I could see the dream becoming a reality, and I was not so far removed from the surgery that I couldnít remember how those first ostomy appliances felt and functioned.
I Finally Had a Product
After three years and many trials and tribulations, I finally had a product that met my specifications. All I needed was to find the capital and expertise to bring my ideal product to market. I approached several existing ostomy manufacturing companies to investigate the possibility of their interest in manufacturing and marketing a product that could truly change the way a person felt about having to wear an ostomy appliance. To my chagrin, I was treated as though I had lost my mind! To most, I was just another ostomate who was unable to come to terms with my circumstances. The last comment I received was, "Donít worry, sweetie, the best appliances in the world are made right here. We donít need any of your ideas." After dedicating myself to developing a "skin friendly" pouching system, and spending countless hours with others who also have had to rely on wearing ostomy pouches, I felt we deserved better! Was it a coincidence that I had not yet met anyone at these ostomy manufacturing companies that had the experience of personally having an ostomy?
In 1988, the U.S. Patent Office issued a patent for my product. Accompanying the patent was the statement, "This is the first significant change in ostomy appliances in twenty-one years, and it was developed by an ostomate who was not part of the ostomy manufacturing field." From concept to reality!
I Had One Goal
I licensed the patent for the MicroSkin® product to Cymed, Inc. in 1985. The product was introduced into the market in 1988. After being on the "side-lines" watching someone else manufacture and market the product for five years, I had an opportunity to purchase Cymed and retrieve the ostomy patent on November 4, 1994. Since then, I have had one primary goal: to produce a pouching system that ostomates can count on to be comfortable, secure, and low profile, along with a warm and caring support system for those who wear the product.
The last few years, I have learned more concerning manufacturing, marketing, finance, and how to run a business than I would have thought possible. I have also had the pleasure of talking with many people who have either tried the MicroSkin® product or been wearing it for years. I have learned a great deal about the needs, perceptions, and expectations concerning wear time, skin problems, costs, and a plethora of other issues ostomates face on a daily basis. I have discovered that perception and expectation are really two primary forces that influence how content one is with an ostomy appliance. Personally, all I knew was that I could not accept the existing technology in 1982. From others, I heard their frustrations compared and contrasted to someone elseís situation. For example, their friend wears the same products they do. Their friend gets five days wear time and they only get two days. The reality is that we are all different. Stoma placement, stoma shape, convex vs. non-convex, pH of skin, dexterity, vision, activity, etc., can all influence wear time. We all must learn and accept, regardless of what we hear or what is claimed by ostomy appliance manufacturers, that an individualís personal wear time depends on what oneís skin is able to tolerate. Changing an appliance a day too early is far better that a day too late! Why wait for a leak, odor, or skin irritation to occur?
Introducing MicroSkin® Platinum®
In 1998, I added an expansion to our product line: MicroSkin® Platinum®! The Platinum® product, available in one- and two-piece drainable systems, features the new MicroDerm® Plus Washer. This new washer is twice the density of the standard MicroDerm® Washer. It is our hope that this new formulation will better promote peristomal skin protection and enhance wear time. The drainable pouch that is incorporated in the Platinum® series features a new tapered design. For those of you who have yet to try MicroSkin®, you will find our products do not require belts, tapes, cement, or other ancillary products to achieve security and comfort. We plan to introduce a MicroSkin® product with convexity, a new product for the urostomate, and a high-output pouch. Since new products are the lifeblood of any manufacturing company, Cymed will continue to pursue new materials and technologies to produce better and better appliances.
Give MicroSkin® A Try!
The frustration of taking a concept to reality was worth the effort. I am reminded daily of this by the countless phone calls and letters we receive from people who have experienced MicroSkin®. Trying new products can be intimidating. We owe it to ourselves to venture out and experience new and different products. There is too much of an upside not to try! I invite those of you who have yet to take the chance and try a new type of appliance to contact one of the many medical distributors who sell ostomy appliances, or Cymed Ostomy Co. to obtain samples and information concerning our products.
I hope that the story of the evolution of the MicroSkin® product will serve as encouragement for you to trust your own judgment and abilities. If you think you have an idea that could improve the quality of your life and that of others, make your concept a reality. The cost will be high in time, effort, and money, but the rewards of knowing that you are improving your quality of life and the lives of thousands of others is enormously rewarding.