"I drive a hard bargain"
It was the old man's persistent pressure sore that turned occupational therapist Gullan Ahl into an inventor. But her dream of becoming an engineer probably helped.
Gullan Ahl was new to the job of occupational therapist and one of her patients was a man with a persistent pressure sore on his heel. The nurses had changed the dressings regularly, following standard procedures, but there had been no improvement during the previous 18 months. Gullan realised that the problem was that the heel - even if it was regularly dressed - was not left free long enough to heal.
"I made a prototype heel protector from foam rubber and fabric, held in place with Velcro", Gullan recalls.
The man tried Gullan's contraption. It wasn't many weeks before the sore was considerably better, and it eventually healed completely.
Gullan's first prototype has now developed into what is today the patented heel protector Molly, part of the range of products sold by leading healthcare supplier Care of Sweden. Thousands of Mollys have been sold in Sweden, Norway and Germany, and the product is now on its way out into the rest of Europe.
Gullan initially submitted her idea to the suggestions box at the municipality where she worked. She also contacted ALMI, who advised her to request a letter of release from the municipality, something that Skövde Municipality agreed to. Gullan thus owned the rights to her own invention.
Both the foam rubber manufacturer and the fabric supplier were required to sign confidentiality agreements. What took longest was finding a partner to manage sales and marketing for the product, and reaching a deal with them.
"This took two years. But I drive a hard bargain, and I had a legal expert who helped me. Eventually we were able to reach an agreement that satisfied everyone."
An agreement was also reached with a large healthcare supplier, something that Gullan is very grateful for now. It wasn't long after her idea had become known that not less than three other companies presented copies of the heel protector.
"I had design protection and trademark protection, but fighting the copies would have been much harder on my own. My collaboration with Care of Sweden gave me the clout I needed to make a stand. All three companies withdrew their copies almost immediately."
She came to be an occupational therapist late in life, after both her father and grandfather had experienced strokes. This brought the profession to her attention. What she had really wanted was to be an engineer. So, you could say that she is a bit of both.
|Home||Södra Ryd, Skövde|
|Education||Licensed occupational therapist, School of Health Sciences at Jönköping University 1990|
|Employed||Occupational therapist, Kommunrehab i Skövde. Innovator, runs the sole proprietorship ADL-Rainbow.|
Text: Unit for Bioentrepreneurship, 2009
Photo: Camilla Svensk