One of Sooke’s residents has invented a product designed to curb the spread of viral loads, thereby decreasing health risks and reducing costs for medical practitioners, from emergency responders to hospital staff.
Al Wickheim, who grew up and still lives in Sooke, worked in partnership with Dr. Stephen Wheeler to invent a product called the STAL Shield and Stand. Visually, it looks like a splash guard on a gas nozzle. And it pretty much functions the same way, but instead of protecting the consumer from gas, it protects people in the medical profession from bodily fluids.
Take for example the commonly-used Yankauer suction tip, which is an oral suctioning tool used in medical procedures to suction throat secretions in order to prevent the patient from choking.
As described on the prodaptiveMedical.com website, “You never know what will come back at you when you introduce a Yankauer into a patients mouth. At the microbial level it does not matter whether you see a volumous spray or are just in the airstream of a ‘retching.’ The STAL stops expectorants at their source and redirects them away from the practitioner.”
Wouldn’t a splash guard make sense?
The immediate benefit of deflecting bacteria and viruses from landing on the medical staff is obvious. Less spread of infection, and fewer costs associated with illness management (additional sick days, extended medical attention, increased health complications, additional infections, etc.).
Conceiving the idea was one thing. Coming up with the prototype was a bit more challenging.
“It was a fairly complicated process,” said Wickheim. “It would have been much easier had I had the CAD (computer-aided design) program to do it. … This was costing us $1,000 every time he (the designer) was touching his keyboard.”
A prototype of the STAL shield was eventually created (it took a year), and then the marketing began. Again, through a lot of trial and error, Wickheim and his team identified the clients: Private ambulance services and the Vancouver Island Health Authority is where Prodaptive Medical Innovations is currently focusing their STAL Shield and Stand sales efforts.
The biggest realization for Wickheim was that the end-user was not the buyer.
“If we knew then what we know now, on hindsight I’d invest in our own CAD program. That would have sped things up remarkably. And I would have done more research on who is buying the products.”
Finding the right price was a third challenge.
What makes for an inventor?
Wickheim is used to seeing things from an alternative perspective. As posted on the About page of the prodaptivemedical.com website, “Al spent a fair bit of time “underground’ as a spelunker on the Island in his youth – his prowess at acrobatics and ropework allowing, sometimes forcing, him into new and unexplored passages and territory.”
“Recognize your limitations, and believe in your strengths,” Wickheim offers to other inventors. “And don’t give up.”
What is next for this inventor?
Besides marketing the STAL Shield and Stand, and running a resort and a hobby farm in partnership with his wife, Wickheim is currently contemplating designing high end picnic tables