CircAid® Medical Products, Inc. is sad to announce that Hertha Peterson Shaw passed away August 29th, 2011 at the age of 90. Hertha is the Mother of Sandra Shaw, CEO and Chairman, and the inspiration behind the CircAid® technology. Her support and contribution to the company over the past 30 years will be greatly missed.
Over 60 years ago Hertha developed secondary Lymphedema in her right leg following an infection in her leg after the birth of her youngest child, Sandra’s brother. At the time little was known about lymphatic disease, which in turn led to years of misdiagnosis and pain for not only Hertha, but also her husband Frank, an engineer and inventor. She was properly diagnosed after 30 years of suffering and prescribed heavy compression stockings of 40-50 mmHg. The stocking helped but her leg continued to ache, as the stockings weren’t sufficient to manage her condition. With three children to raise and a full time job she was forced, like many Lymphedema patients, to sit and rest with her legs elevated every few hours. As her condition worsened she came close to quitting her job.
Her husband, Frank, was deeply concerned as he watch his once vibrant wife become more and more disabled. Frank continually searched for solutions; many ideas and approaches were considered without success. Over time Hertha saw many of the top Vascular Surgeons in the country. One doctor in New York even suggested they go to Germany to try a new bandaging technique, something inelastic, similar to the effect soldiers’ have from walking in heavy boots that he had heard was providing successful management of Lymphedema. A trip to Germany was not affordable but the kernel of an idea had been planted in Frank’s mind.
After that meeting a trip to the zoo ignited an idea for a practical solution. Frank stopped at the Giraffe Exhibit and, given his obsession with his wife’s condition, marvelled at the ability of the giraffes to stand with such long legs. Amazed and inspired he began to study the physiology of giraffes. He learned that giraffe skin is inelastic, meaning that it does not stretch, even though giraffes have venous pressures of more than 250mm Hg at their ankles. He also learned that giraffe’s can stand for 24 hours at a time and never suffer from Venous or Lymphatic disorders.
Through this research Frank decided to try and make an adjustable “Giraffe” boot. He went to Hertha’s closet and removed one of her nicest pair of boots. He cut the material off the front of the boot and replaced it with crossed Velcro straps. Hertha told Frank she wouldn’t wear them, that it wouldn’t work, but nevertheless she packed them in her suitcase for their upcoming cruise. As they were preparing to go onshore one day, meaning every few hours Hertha would need to stop and put her leg up, Frank suggested that she wear the boots he had made for her. He insisted that nobody would notice, they were the same color and she would be wearing pants. She donned the boots and wore them around all day, not once having to stop or focus on her leg. When they returned to their room that night, she turned to Frank and said, “Get a patent.”
Frank Shaw started Shaw Medical in 1978 and began convincing the top Vascular Surgeons worldwide that there was something to his inelastic, adjustable legging. Hertha and Frank’s daughter, Sandra, became interested in the technology in 1990, based on how it had helped her mother and after attending several conferences where the original product was sold. With a background in marketing and strategic planning she started working with her dad to further develop the products and in 1990 she started CircAid® Medical Products, Inc. and bought the technology in 1993. Over the next 20 years clinical peer reviewed studies validated Frank’s base technology and numerous patented products for Venous and Lymphatic disorders have been developed. Since the first patient, Hertha, tens of thousands of individuals around the world have been better able to manage their life long struggle with Lymphedema and venous disorders.
Hertha continued to wear CircAid® Leggings for the rest of her life and never lost a day to Lymphedema. She retired at age 65 from her job and traveled the world with Frank. She could apply and remove her CircAid® leggings every day even as she developed arthritis in her fingers and back. She was able to maintain her independence throughout her life thanks to her beloved husband Frank.
Sandra and the rest of us at CircAid® want to thank Hertha and Frank, as well as all of you who have helped make inelastic, adjustable compression a reality that has given patients a means to better manage their condition. CircAid® Medical Products, Inc. offers those afflicted by Lymphedema and Venous Diseases to continue living with increased independence.