MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
JILL NELSON, HOST: And I’m Jill Nelson. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a mom helping infants with injuries.
Birth is hard on moms—but sometimes it’s really hard on babies. Some infants are so big that they fracture a collarbone as they come through the birth canal.
REICHARD: If you’ve ever broken a bone—you know it hurts. Up ‘til now, there’s been no good way to keep babies from further injuring themselves after they’ve broken a collarbone.
WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg met one mom who figured out a solution.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Kirsten Quist is a wife, a nurse, and mother to three little girls. Two years ago she added a new title: entrepreneur.
AUDIO: [Sound of Kirsten opening tub of braces]
In her home office, she opens a plastic tub full of small mesh cylinders. Each one is about two-inches around and five inches long. They are made of a bandage used in brain and orthopedic surgeries.
QUIST: You feel the brace here. It’s just soft and comfy.
She calls her invention an Infant Brace. It’s for babies born with broken collarbones during birth. Kirsten holds the simple brace in her hand.
QUIST: So this is what it looks like before it even goes on but it just stretches
SCHWEINSBERG: This is tiny!
QUIST: But it stretches into that.
By that, she means it’s stretchy enough to fit around the the belly, torso, and arm of a baby, holding the collarbone still. She demonstrates on a realistic-looking doll.
QUIST: We do have this doll that also shows and it’s pretty sturdy material actually.
Kirsten Quist says her simple invention was born out of necessity. Literally. The idea came to her after her third baby was born with a broken collarbone. The pediatrician told Kirsten and her husband they needed to keep Emma’s arm immobilized for up to two weeks.
QUIST: And I said, okay, great. So what brace do we buy? And he said there isn’t one.
Kirsten tried to safety pin Emma’s clothing to hold her arm in place, but she kept pulling free. She searched the internet for options, but she didn’t find anything.
So Kirsten put on her nurse’s cap. She remembered the mesh bandaging used in brain and orthopedic surgeries. So she got a tube and wrapped it around Emma. The infant still broke free. Poor Emma was in pain–terrible pain that kept her from eating for 18 hours.
QUIST: And it wasn’t like normal baby crying. I’m frustrated. It was like pain screaming. She would just fuss and scream at me.
In a last ditch effort before heading to the ER, Kirsten took the mesh bandaging again and sewed the edges into a cylinder. The material stretched tightly around Emma’s torso and arm, relieving her pain.
QUIST: And fortunately the brace worked and calmed her down and we were able to find a nursing hold that put less pressure on her arm.
Today Emma is an energetic five year old with curly brown hair and brown eyes.
AUDIO: [Sound of Kirsten picking Emma up and Emma squealing]
But Kirsten has never forgotten the stress of that experience.
QUIST: To see your child in pain that you can’t fix and so much pain that they are willing to ignore one of their most basic needs. That’s really difficult as a parent to watch.
Kirsten flips through pictures of newborn Emma on her computer. In many of the photos, Emma’s wearing the mesh bandage. Her friends encouraged her to market her invention.
QUIST: Every single one of them would say, you should market that.
So Kirsten and her husband decided to start a business. They’d visit friends with newborns to figure out the perfect size for the brace.
QUIST: The tricky part was figuring out how much resistance to have on the baby’s arms so that it is immobilizing that joint for real without cutting off the baby’s circulation.
Once they settled on the correct size, the Quists applied for a patent. They found a local manufacturer, and officially launched their business.
Now they are discovering some of the challenges of running a business. Like designing a label with proper instructions.
QUIST: We’ve got Ikea style instructions, some basic safety information, a QR code so they can get back to the website. And then we put a little “IB” sticker on them. That’s our little logo.
And setting a price. Even though the braces are simple, they retail for $40 each. Kirsten says there’s a surprising amount of cost that goes into making them.
QUIST: There’s making the brace, the actual manufacturing of the brace. And then there’s the boxes that we put the packaging in that we have to put labeling on as part of FDA requirements.
And figuring out how to reach their specific customers. They’ve visited area pediatricians, but it’s expensive to directly sales pitch doctors. Kirsten and her husband mostly rely on Google for advertising.
QUIST: We’re on the second page. Second one on the second page. That’s not too bad.
Kirsten says it can be frustrating to see the tub full of Infant Braces sitting in her office and not in hospitals. She’s seen how the braces can help. But she also hopes that the Infant Brace is a reminder that sometimes advances come from questioning how things have always been done and not taking no for answer.
QUIST: I feel like a lot of the advances we make in medicine come because somebody questioned something, questioned why we didn’t have a solution for this or why do we do things that way? And maybe the answer that you find is yeah, that really is the only way to do that. But I think it’s okay to question things. I think it’s important.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg reporting from Lehi, Utah.