Skimming through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, you find an abundance of wearable tech devices. One wants to help parents’ monitor their child’s health. Another promises to measure the health of a person’s dog.
TheraV, a D.C.-based startup that recently launched a GoFundMe campaign, is similar. But, instead of measuring the health of generally healthy people (and animals), TheraV’s campaign aims to build a product to help veterans with amputations.
The wearables startup builds a high-tech band, called Elix, to help people manage phantom limb pain through a tested vibration pattern. Phantom limb pain occurs after an amputation when the body feels ongoing pain from the part of the limb that is no longer there.
Amira Idris, CEO and founder of TheraV, is a creative biomedical engineer, with both a master’s in entrepreneurship and a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Delaware. Through her research, she found a passion. See, Idris loves science fiction, and as a child her favorite movie was “RoboCop,” a 1987 feature film about, well, a robotic cop, or cyborg.
So it made sense to Idris when she found herself researching and studying the effects of prosthetic limbs in her undergraduate career. In her junior year, she started working at a prosthetic clinic to get a feel for the field.
“I found that there were a lot of issues that weren’t being well addressed in the space,” Idris said about her time at the clinic.
Idris recounts clients who walked in dealing with depression brought on by their phantom limb pain. Some clients didn’t even want to talk about the pain because they weren’t sure if it was real or not.
As Idris dug a bit more into solutions for phantom limb pain, she realized that medication was the top way for patients to manage the pain. But there wasn’t a specific medical solution.
Alternative treatments included massage therapy, and in Idris’ research, she found that those who relied on this treatment method were just smacking their limbs until they were relieved.
That’s when the idea came for TheraV’s Elix band came to her.
“I just figured there had to be a better way,” Idris said. “Every since, I’ve just been developing my product.”
Here’s how Elix works: When someone has phantom limb pain, they take the band and wrap it around what Idris calls the “residual limb.” From there, each user can set their own vibration intensity and pattern based on what kind of pain they’re feeling.
Idris consulted prosthetists, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists who work with amputees, a few masseuses and amputees when developing her band. By her recollection, she talked to more than 300 people to learn about the problem and test-drive her idea.
Once she got TheraV off the ground, Idris did what plenty of D.C.-based social entrepreneurs do: She found herself in Halcyon Incubator’s fall cohort in Georgetown.
“This wasn’t something I just thought of on the fly and said, ‘Great!'” Idris said. “(The product) is nothing like the original design that I had — not even close.”
Now, Idris has launched a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising enough money to be able to donate 100 Elix bands to veterans. At first, they wanted to go through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to work with them as a partner, but, as with anything in the federal government, the process to set that up would be long and arduous.
Instead of waiting, Idris launched a crowdfunding campaign so she can work directly with veterans. Before this, TheraV was funded purely through grants, pitch competition awards and Idris’ own funds.
For this new project, Idris estimates that they’ll need at least $22,000 — with the development of each band priced at $220. As of Jan. 3, the startup has raised a bit over $11,000 since launching the campaign on Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day.
“More people are getting a whiff of what we’re doing, and they’re doing whatever they can to help us — whether it’s connecting us to veterans to get our device, donating whatever they can or spreading the word through their own social media,” Idris said.