Mattress elevator has huge potential

By Vaughan Elder

So simple, so helpful . . . Two inflatable pads which could dramatically help with the care of people confined to their beds. Larry Burns (left) and Grant Woolford. Photo / Stephen Jacquiery
So simple, so helpful . . . Two inflatable pads which could dramatically help with the care of people confined to their beds. Larry Burns (left) and Grant Woolford. Photo / Stephen Jacquiery

A simple device designed by an inventive Dunedin mind has the medical fraternity buzzing.

The device, called a ''mattress elevator'', being sold by Dunedin company BFW Innovations has been hailed as a potential game changer for the treatment of patients with bed sores and arthritis sufferers.

The remote-controlled device has two inflatable pads which can be pumped up by a patient or medical professional, allowing arthritis sufferers to make their beds without experiencing pain.

Larry Burns says he came up with the idea of a ''mattress elevator'' while working as a handyman for a woman with arthritis.

The woman complained her hands were torn apart when she lifted her mattress to make her bed, Burns said

This set off a light bulb in his head and he came up with a solution.

Six months later the product was being eyed up by New Zealand DHBs and had even attracted international interest.

Burns said the device's ability to move patients to prevent them from getting bed sores - something he was not thinking of when he came up with the design - was a major reason for the interest.

Bed sores were a large problem in healthcare settings and cost the country millions every year.

The DHBs had been attracted by the simplicity of the device and the fact it did what they said it would do.

Burns was a self-described ''terrible businessman'' but said he had a knack for coming up with inventions to fix people's problems.

''My father was the same. My dad was in engineering.''

A major reason the invention had got to the cusp of being a successful product was his business partner Grant Woolford, who pushed him to make the most of his inventive streak, saying: ''Why the hell don't you do anything with it?''

Woolford was ''pretty sure'' the product was going to make the big time and pointed to its simplicity as a major selling point.

''It so simple it's stupid.

''Everybody we have shown this to has asked: 'Where's your levers your actuators, your lights, your buttons'.

''There is none of that,'' he said.

They had also tried to keep it as cheap as possible and were looking to sell the version aimed at arthritis sufferers for about $450.

They were now working on making a battery-powered and wheelchair version of the device and if it proved successful Burns was keen to take some of his other inventions to the world.

Enterprise Dunedin business relationship manager Des Adamson, who has been working with the pair, believed the product was the real deal and had the chance to make the big time.

The increased focus on health and safety was a major reason it was such a good product, as it could move patients to prevent bed sores instead of requiring nurses or other healthcare professionals to do the potentially hazardous job.

He also pointed to the device's simplicity.

''The solution is so simple for a problem that has been evident for many years.''

- Otago Daily Times

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