A Courtenay woman created a product she believes will help people manage their often-overwhelming health care information.
Heather Cooper used her past experience as a nurse to create the All In One Health Care Kit, which is an organizational binder used to keep track of various medications, appointments and other health-related information.
"I was thinking of all the people I've had come in or that I've had to admit or, you know, that you're helping pack up, like just all the stuff that would have made my job easier," says Cooper, adding medical care, especially for elderly people or people with medical issues, can be confusing when they have to keep track of their referrals to specialists, hospital visits, medications and so on.
"It's completely overwhelming and it's completely impossible to remember the stuff that they need to remember."
Cooper was a nurse at Kingston General Hospital, until a car accident nearly 10 years ago created chronic pain in her neck and she couldn't work anymore. She focused on raising her kids and the family moved out to Courtenay about three years ago when her husband was transferred to 19 Wing Comox.
Cooper recalls a story from about 13 years ago — when she was working in the Emergency Room at Kingston General Hospital — when asked why she believes her product will help people.
A frail elderly woman was brought in and was very sick. She was having trouble breathing, and her husband was standing silently nearby, clutching her purse and looking very overwhelmed and nervous.
Once the immediate medical work had been completed, Cooper grabbed the paperwork needed to admit the woman to hospital and tried asking the husband some questions about his wife's medical history.
"I started asking about some of her medications and how long she'd been taking things — did she take the stuff today, OK, what was her doctor's name, where is he," recalls Cooper. "And he's just standing there, and he goes, 'I don't know, she looks after me, I don't know any of this' and the look on his — he was so afraid, and he was so out of his depth and scared, because she's the one who looks after everything, she's the one who looks after him."
Cooper said she will never forget the man and says having a package with all the info in it would have made things so much easier for him.
"He could have just taken this out of his wife's purse and he could've just went 'here,' and it would have had everything we needed to know," she adds.
But, Cooper's idea for the care kit first took shape just last year when she noticed her parents-in-law struggling to manage their health issues. She created an organizer out of an address book for them last Christmas, and they found it helped so she made a couple for other people.
Family and friends kept telling her she should market it, and early this year, she got a chance to audition for the TV show Dragons' Den — where entrepreneurs pitch business concepts to powerful Canadian businesspeople.
She pitched her idea to the show's producers, and they said it was a great idea — just too early in the planning stages to go on the show.
Encouraged by the producers' positive feedback, Cooper started making her idea become a reality, and she's just starting the marketing phase of her business plan.
The kit is small enough to fit inside a purse for easy transportability, and it's three-ring binder-style so users can change and move around information — something she noticed was lacking in similar products.
The kit features colour coded pages so up to six family members can store their information in it while keeping everything separate. A business card holder page and pocket pages for loose sheets of information are a couple of the other features.
The book is designed with bright colours and cute cartoon-style art; Cooper noted she wanted the kit to look fun because health problems can be scary and depressing.
Cooper pointed out anyone who has a kit should tell loved ones where it's stored in case of an emergency.
The All In One Health Care Kit is available at the Medicine Shoppe in Comox or on Cooper's website at www.healthcarekit.ca.