A few years ago, in March of 2013, Registered Nurse Yvette Young was given an impossible task while working with three patients who were all having troubles with their catheters.
"The male patient I was caring for presented that morning with a very significant wound-it was very painful. He also had an infection," Young remembered.
The patient was sent to the urologist and, when he returned, the note from the urologist said, "Keep all pressure off."
Young laughed thinking of the note, remembering this request was impossible given the circumstances-the briefs catheter patients use tend to tug on and kink the catheter tubing, causing pressure, which leads to other issues.
"Aside from visualizing pulleys and ropes from the ceiling, there was really no other way to try to resolve this issue," Yvette laughed. "So I came up with the idea that day."
She invented the ComfyCath, a brief with a slit down the front, which allows the catheter tube to sit more naturally instead of being threaded through the leg-when a catheter is threaded through the leg of a brief, it can cause kinking and other issues, like sediment buildup and subsequent infections.
"So when you put this on, even if it's a bedridden patient, the product (brief) comes up and around the catheter. You don't have to lift the (catheter) tubing. You don't have to lift the (catheter) bag and thread it through the leg," Young said.
The slit down the front-much like a pants zipper, without the zipper-has tabs, like the sides of the brief, to allow easy access for caregivers who need to treat a patient without completely removing the brief. The tabs also seal the brief securely when the patient is mobile.
She had the idea, she just had to modify a regular brief by hand to fit what she envisioned - so she did, and she placed it on the male patient who had presented with the wound.
"The staff that helped me, we just kind of sat there and looked at each other for a few minutes," Young laughed. "And then we went to the other gentleman who we were really struggling with (regarding) his behaviors."
This second gentleman had some underlying memory issues, and his catheter pain led to agitation, which caused him to tug on his catheter.
"We cut his product (brief) and did it with this (ComfyCath) design-and instant relief. Within a few hours he was draining clear urine," Young said.
Then they went to the woman and fitted her with a handmade ComfyCath.
"When I came back the next day, we saw that she didn't have any leaking," Young said, adding that the other gentleman with memory and behavior issues was also still doing well: he wasn't tugging on his catheter anymore, and he was still draining clear.
"And the gentleman with the wound already showed improvement," Young said.
The invention seemed so simple at first-Young thought someone else had surely already thought of it, so she did an extensive catalog search, looking for anything resembling her design.
"With no success (finding a similar product), I then did a patent search, and again could not find anything," she remembers, so she took out her own provisional patent to continue doing research.
After a year, she took out an official patent and began putting her invention out there.
Young also continued to hand make these products for patients during this time. She laughed thinking about how many she made during those initial years.
"A lot! I mean, the female patient used five a day... the male patients used three a day-one a shift-depending, you know, three to four," she said.
While the product was working for the patients, Young was having difficulty getting her product out there. After a little trial and error working with venture capitalists, Young grew discouraged. She had spent more money investing in her product than she needed to, and her product wasn't really going in the direction she wanted it to go.
"So then I took a little break," Young remembers, "and then one day Dr. (WIlliam) Henke grabbed his piles of my ComfyCath stuff and he said, 'Now you need to get busy on this.'"
So she went for it again.
"I started all over," Young said.
She got a few more people involved, including Clarissa Dumdei and Leah Hochstein, two nurse practitioners, in addition to Dr. Henke, whom Young had already brought on board.
"All of us have a background in geriatrics and memory care, palliative and taking care of patients who are in a nursing facility, so all of our backgrounds kind of molded into seeing this (invention) as being the answer to so many of our problems," Hochstein said.
The ComfyCath group paired with Principal Business Enterprises, out of Ohio, and started running trials.
"They have really helped us out with research and development, have guided us, have manufactured some product for us, so we would complete some testing and some trials," Young said, adding that Principle Business Enterprises did their own trials in California, and reported back that those turned out great.
Not only does the product decrease the risk of infection, "Appetites improved. They (patients) gained weight; they became more social," Young said, adding that the brief even helps the caretakers, making their job replacing briefs a little easier.
So the next step, after successful trials, was applying to the Minnesota Cup.
"It's kind of like the Shark Tank of Minnesota," Hochstein said, "They help you find the resources and connect you with the people you need to connect with."
However, Young said they weren't ready for that step. They wanted to take the whole process very slowly, to make sure they were hitting every mark, but they filled out the lengthy application anyway just to see what would happen.
While they didn't make the Minnesota Cup, a new opportunity came from it.
"We certainly weren't ready for that level, but what came out of it, when you apply for it, is a lot of people see your product and a lot of people see your application, and we received an email two weeks ago asking us to attend this 'We Made It' women's expo," Young said, adding that they were chosen as one of out 12 groups of women inventors to come to the event.
On Monday, Nov, 7, the group will be trekking to Minneapolis for the expo. They'll set up a booth and show off the ComfyCath on "Miss Legs," a set of blow-up mannequin legs they use to display the briefs.
Even Dr. Henke gets to go, even though it's a women's expo.
"We told him that (he couldn't go because he's a man) and giggled," Young said. "It's geared towards the women inventors, so that doesn't mean there's not men on their team."
As for when the product will be rolling out, they're shooting for early 2017, around January.
"Currently our first rollout is going to be the diapers. So that's geared more towards our institutionalized patients," Young said, adding that there will be different iterations of the brief rolling out for patients with different mobility levels and issues. "Down the road we have all kinds of ideas, but that's our target right now."