Since the 1970’s cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy had only one option to carry their necessary ambulatory infusion pumps, a fanny pack that fits around the waist which can be cumbersome. That was until Julie Hyzdu invented PoppyPocket, a transport system that holds medical devices safely and discreetly underneath clothing to provide patients the freedom to engage in everyday activity and keep their medical conditions private.
We spoke with Julie about her mission to give patients options when it comes to their treatment at home and in the workplace.
Recognizing a Need
When Julie’s father was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy she noticed that he struggled with his hospital prescribed infusion pump which was housed in a fanny pack.
“He had his fanny pack on and the tubes were getting caught on his desk, the sink, and getting out of the car it would get snagged. It would get tangled at night,” said Hyzdu. ”It was really a nightmare. So I came up with a better solution for him.”
That solution was a latex free medical elastic band and polyester pouch that holds the medical device and loose tubing close to the torso. Originally developed just for her father, the PoppyPocket became a hit at the doctor’s office.
“My father loved it. The nurses and the doctors loved it; they asked if they could get some. So I made more for some of the patients, especially those who were working and younger. These were moms and dads who wanted to remain active,” said Hyzdu.
Soon Hyzdu realized that this product should be available for all patients undergoing chemotherapy. “I thought to myself, ‘How can I get this to the other hundreds of thousands of chemotherapy patients out there?’”
Spreading the Word
Inspired by an overwhelming demand, Julie contacted a company called Infusystem from Michigan. She had seen the name on one of her father’s medical bills and decided to take a leap of faith. Hyzdu signed a two-year exclusive agreement with Infusystem that puts 30,000 units in 1,400 oncology offices around the world.
For Infusystem patients, the product is a free alternative to the standard fanny pack offered by the company. For others, the PoppyPocket can be purchased directly on their website. The product is latex free, machine washable, and can be adjusted to fit all body types. The company offers both a child and adult PoppyPocket which can be adjusted through cutting and extensions.
The PoppyPocket can also be used for individuals suffering from pulmonary hypertension, diabetes, antibiotic infusion, and pain management as well as patients who wish to discreetly transport their heart rate monitor.
Growing a Business
“I didn’t set out to start a business,” said Hyzdu. “I was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and homeschooled my kids. I just felt that there was a need and I wanted to raise awareness. It is frustrating to know that billions of dollars are spent on advancing chemotherapy but patients are still using the same fanny packs they used in the 70s and 80s. My mission is to one by one let people know that they have a choice out there – it’s not a fit for everyone but as long as they can choose.”
Julie has raised awareness for this project by participating in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as working with SEED SPOT, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that helps grow innovative small businesses.
“Working with SEED SPOT was fantastic! I hadn’t been in business for twenty years and SEED SPOT was kind of a fast track to a master’s degree in business. The collaboration in the group was very impactful, when you invent a product on your own you are by yourself out there,” said Hyzdu.
Challenges and Rewards
Growing a small business is no easy task, especially in a market as competitive as health care. Being an entrepreneur is a tiring process but Julie concedes that the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
“The biggest challenge has been being alone and wearing all of these different hats. With marketing, sales, and finances it can be too much to handle. I have brought on an attorney so now I have someone to take some of the workload, ” said Hyzdu. “That was the biggest challenge, that and doing things out of my comfort zone. I don’t enjoy doing sales and making cold calls. I just want to be with patients and find a solution.“
“The most rewarding part is the fact that you are changing lives. I get testimonials daily from dads who can play sports with their kids now or they can ride their bike. Patients can go to work and nobody knows they are sick. One father was able to walk his daughter down the aisle and wore his PoppyPocket. That is the most rewarding. That is why I do this.”
PoppyPocket is a Phoenix-based business that produces a comfortable transport and holding system for ambulatory pumps, insulin pumps, and several other devices. Julie Hyzdu is the inventor and founder of the company. The PoppyPocket can be purchased online and news can be found of their Facebook, Twitter, and Blog.