If You Can’t Find It, Make It
By Phil Rondeau
I grew up in Petawawa, Ontario as the youngest of 10 children. I led a very active life as a child, participating in sports and various extra-curricular activities. During my teenage years, flu-like symptoms occurred often; I experienced painful stomach aches and sometimes had up to 20 bowel movements per day.
In 1980, at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
Following this diagnosis, I underwent eight bowel resections and many hospitalizations over a 17 year period. Multiple surgeries only gave me temporary relief as the disease would always come back seemingly worse than before.
One of the worst flare-ups happened in the summer of 1997. It was then that Dr. Jamie Gregor at London Health Science recommended an ileostomy. Just a few months later in late September I agreed to ostomy surgery performed by Dr. Ken Leslie.
An ostomy gave me much needed relief from Crohn’s.
When I returned home from the hospital, I found that emptying the pouch was time consuming and unpleasant. Pushing the waste out of the pouch using my fingers was not effective, and what remained inside left me with an unclean feeling.
I proceeded to call numerous drug and medical supply stores looking for a device that would completely drain the contents of the pouch. With each conversation I received the same responses, "No, I've never heard of anything like that" or “We have nothing available that performs that function.” I then headed to the public library and read through many ostomy magazines and medical journals, but still nothing came up.
Not being one who gives up easily, I decided to solve my own ostomy problem.
Driving home from the library I imagined what this device would look like and how it could work if it existed. With this thought in my head and a little determination, I stopped at a local hardware store and purchased the materials. After just 20 minutes in the garage, I built a functioning prototype which I used during the four years that I had an ostomy.
This device helped immensely when I returned to work on the assembly line at Sterling Trucks, as the reduced time emptying the pouch kept me on the job vs. in the restroom. It also gave me the confidence get back into life and become active again in hiking and snowmobiling. In October 2001, almost four years to the day of my original ostomy surgery, I had a reversal and the device sat in my drawer no longer needed.
Since leaving Sterling Trucks in 2007, I’ve focused my efforts on various inventions in the pursuit of furthering a company I named, Uncle Phil’s Think Tank (UPTT Inc.).
I realized that the device I created in 1997 could benefit other ostomates.
I met Anthony Janes in 2010, and together we developed a business plan to turn my original idea into a marketable ostomy product, the One Pass Ostomy Draining Device. With design in hand we spent the next four years looking for a suitable manufacturer. A chance meeting with a manufacturer in Carbonear, NL resulted in securing a quality product at an affordable price.
The OPODD™ is a compact, lightweight device which is very convenient to carry and use. It’s a dual roller which includes a locking mechanism at one end that allows ostomates to secure the rollers across the width of the pouch with ease and removes practically all of the contents in one pass.
We collected feedback from ostomates and further refined the design in order to decrease emptying time while increasing convenience and flexibility. The OPODD™ was reintroduced to the market in February, 2016. We are now demonstrating this device to patients, hospitals, and nursing homes.
A desire for a better life kept pushing me forward.
Nearly half my life was spent battling Crohn’s, multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. I’ve taken immune suppressing medications, developed raised pyrogenic granuloma while living with an ileostomy, and dealt with three hernia repairs after the reversal. Nothing about having an illness or ostomy is easy, but I found the courage to move forward and live.
Today Crohn’s is in check and I no longer suffer. I’m currently living in Mount Pearl, NL, the jewel of the St. John’s area and I’m engaged to the beautiful Claire Heffernan. I will never forget the experience of living with an ostomy; this product reinvented itself with a desire to support ostomates in their daily lives.