Upright in the Upsee: Oh, the Places We’ll Go!
~Debby Einatan Inventor of the Upsee
Necessity, they say, is the Mother of Invention. For one mom, the “necessity” not only caused an invention, but also, started a desire to bring a product to market. A desire that has taken many twists and turns, almost two decades in the making and that eventually led to a company 2,500 miles from her home in Israel. Meet Debby Einatan. When her son, Rotem (who has cerebral palsy), was two, Debby took him to a physical therapist. When the session was completed, her therapist told her “your son doesn’t know what his legs are for”. After crying for about a week or two, Debby picked herself up and was determined to walk him. However, it was very difficult to walk a two-year-old. “You are practically on your hands and knees…holding your child up”, Debby explained. But, she was determined to get him moving, and knew there had to be a better way.
She started to make shoes out of wood and tried different kinds of connections until she came up with the first version of the Upsee: a sewn harness for Rotem that she attached to her body. She put him in sturdy sandals that she strapped to her own shoes and started walking around with him. They started out slowly, but eventually, were able to take walks in the neighborhood for up two hours at a time.
Finding the Right Fit
Debby knew that in order for her to get her product to the very people who could benefit most from it, she couldn’t do it alone. She needed a company that not only understood what was needed to manufacture and market the product, but also had a “heart” for the clients it served and truly “got it” when dealing with special needs families. Debby also new the importance of being able to give children a chance at a better childhood and was looking for that “special company” that knew this as well. She eventually selected Leckey, a company based in Lisburn, Ireland, that has made positioning equipment for children with special needs for more than 30 years. Leckey recently started a new division called Firefly that focuses on research and development of postural care for children, with a strong emphasis on solutions for special needs family participation, helping more children take part in special family moments.
Fast forward to the end of March, 2014: Firefly invited Parenting Special Needs Magazine (along with several other bloggers, publications, and press) to the product launch of the Upsee. It was there that we met Mr. James Leckey, Founder and President, and his entire TEAM. After initially meeting them, I recalled a quote from John Maxwell that seemed very fitting: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. This was evident in every aspect of the company…from the staff in the office to the factory. In fact, prior to touring the facility, Mr. Leckey showed us the company’s mission statement that hung as a huge banner on the wall in the factory. Every employee that works there must sign their name showing their commitment to research and commitment to developing and supplying innovative, quality-postural-support and therapy equipment that improves the lives of children and adults with disabilities.
The factory is very clean and organized. In addition, all products are handmade with many checks and balances in place to make sure quality products are delivered. We witnessed the seamstress sewing parts of the vest/harness of the Upsee. The Upsee system includes a harness for the child, which attaches to the adult’s hip belt, and specially engineered shared sandals, which allows the parent and child to step simultaneously while allowing the child’s hands to remain free.
Benefits of the Upsee
While it depends on the ability of your child, the Upsee can offer a number of advantages over other mobility aids. It provides the possibility of weight bearing through lower limbs, which can change according to the abilities of your child. The Upsee enables active assisted movement so your child can stand and step to the best of their ability with the minimum level of assistance provided by you.
Because you can feel your child’s stepping movements through the double sandal, Upsee enables you to provide assistance to step as required. Upsee provides the possibility of cruising – moving sideways along furniture. The type of support provided by the Upsee means that the child’s hands are free to play, while giving the child the potential to achieve hip abduction (legs apart) and actively work trunk muscles in standing –and it’s motivational because it can be done during play. And, of course, in addition to the clinical and developmental opportunities, the Upsee is lightweight and easily portable. It allows parents to help their child to experience standing, stepping and fulfill their physical potential through family participation. Children may gain the therapeutic benefits of supported standing and stepping while they play and participate in sports and family activities.
The Upsee is not replacement for physical therapy. It is important that your child continues with their physical therapy routine. It is recommended that you seek advice prior to purchasing the Upsee from your child’s physical therapist.
Firefly’s Clinical Research Manager and occupational therapist, Clare Canale, said “It has been humbling to see the progress and happiness the Upsee is creating; watching children do simple things for the first time such as kicking a ball or playing with a sibling is wonderful for everyone involved, but especially the families. Ultimately, this is about quality of life and we hope that the Upsee will enhance the lives of children with motor impairment and their families.”
Magical things happen “within” when you’re standing on your own two legs, with your hands free, combined with gravity.
~Debby Einatan Inventor of the Upsee
The line above is a slight variation from the title of the famous Dr. Seuss book, but, it is so very appropriate. The Upsee can truly improve family participation in the lives of those who use it. Imagine all of the “firsts” that you can experience with your child. Imagine how it might feel when you see your child participating in life experiences for the first time outside the confines of a wheelchair; like the viral image of the “little Flower girl” walking down the aisle at her Aunt’s wedding in a specially made, Satin Upsee? Moreover, when people realize that it is extremely easy to use that makes the experience all the more pleasing: a few snaps and straps and you’re on your way!
Kara Melissa Sharp of Free as Trees and her son, Sebastian, were part the initial trial of the Upsee prior to attending the launch in Ireland. In fact, after the launch, I was privileged to be with part of Kara’s family trip to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was very touching and wonderful to see the family (including Sebastian) in all the action. When they put Sebastian in his Upsee on the “Causeway” and Sebastian was standing with his Dad it brought tears to everyone eyes. It was amazing to witness first hand the power and impact the Upsee is going to be in the lives of children and families. Kara went on to explain that when Sebastian was in his Upsee, he felt the uneven ground beneath his feet; his arms relaxed at his side; his chest open to the world with the sun on his face. His sister could come up and stand next to him, grab his hand or give him a hug without maneuvering between wheels of a walker or a wheelchair. When a new friend asked her family to pose for a photo, Kara was suddenly overcome with emotion. After the photo was taken, Kara had tears of joy, then said “Here we were, he is almost 6 years old, and we are all standing together, in an exotic, rustic locale and I wasn’t holding him. We weren’t crouching down to be next to his wheelchair. We were all standing there. Together. For the very first time”.
For more information: www.fireflyfriends.com
Photo of Upsee: James Leckey Design Ltd.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2014 Magazine