Getting The Air Out Is EZ
By Hans Butterwegge
For over 30 years I worked in engineering and management for a large corporation, with my last few years heading up their international division where I traveled extensively to South America, Europe and Asia before retiring in 1992. Shortly after, I was getting my yearly physical when some blood was found in my stool. It was dismissed as being nothing to worry about, but in the fall of 1994 I was diagnosed with rectal cancer which resulted in a colostomy later that year.
The gas I would produce and the idea of burping my pouch got the best of me. I was convinced that this would change my life for the worst; that my plans to continue traveling in retirement would have to be shelved. With nothing on the market to fully address this, I came up with the idea on how to quickly release built-up gas pressure. Still having contacts from my previous employer, I presented them my concept for a venting device that eliminated the need to burp the pouch. I had a prototype made that proved the initial vent concept as a solution to my problem.
With the basic idea for the vent established, I approached my daughter, Kellie, whose background is in business management and commercial design, to take over the project.
Kellie Laine, President of KEM Enterprises, Inc.
My father brought the project of the ostomy pouch venting device to me in 1995. My family and I live in Michigan. I worked with a number of Michigan companies to create a vent that would be easy to use by any individual, function properly with repeated usage, and have an adhesive that would bond to a variety of ostomy pouch surfaces. Once this criteria was met and the manufacturing companies were selected, I tested the product through trials with ostomates and wound/ostomy nurses throughout the United States. The trials resulted in a redesign to the current vent base as well as tweaking the adhesive components to adhere permanently to any surface enduring continuous usage of the vent.
I founded KEM Enterprises, Inc. in 1996. Marketing was the next challenge to make the product available to ostomates. I chose to do a large mailing to ostomy/wound care nurses throughout the United States. With three young children the fledgling business became a family affair. My husband, kids, my parents and I would work at our kitchen table stuffing large puffy envelopes with a cover letter, a brochure and samples of the newly named product, the Osto-EZ-Vent®.
In 1997 we attended the 9th IOC World Congress in Canada. The Osto-EZ-Vent® was recognized as a viable product in the ostomy market. In 1998 we attended our first WOCN Conference, and were approached by Edgepark to sell the product. Byram Healthcare, Liberty Medical, and Invacare followed, and today the Osto-EZ-Vent® is widely available in the United States as well as internationally in Europe, the United Kingdom and Japan, with other countries to follow. My son is now head of our international division.
We have been very fortunate to work with outstanding companies to sell through, and grow with over the years. Our greatest reward has been getting letters, phone calls and emails from customers letting us know how the Osto-EZ-Vent® has improved and changed their lives while living with an ostomy.
Creating the Osto-EZ-Vent® enabled me to resume traveling the world with my wife, and my hope is that this product continues to have the same effect on other ostomates.