Bob Yant Believes Living Life Is Not About What You Can’t Do But Rather Discovering What You Can Do

Editor’s Note: Bob Yant, the founder of Cure Medical, strives to impact the world of spinal-cord injuries. This week, we’ll see why he’s such a strong advocate for finding a cure for spinal-cord injuries. We also will learn what he and his company have done and are doing to find this cure as quickly as possible. Part 4 of a 4-part series.

Bob Yant, founder of Cure Medical and fundraiser for international SCI research

Bob Yant, founder of Cure Medical and fundraiser for international SCI research

Although today Bob Yant has gone through all four steps of loss, he’s never given-up on the idea that one day there’ll be a cure for spinal-cord injuries.  He works toward raising money and providing help for researchers in spinal-cord injuries. He seeks an ultimate cure that will restore all functions to all individuals who have spinal-cord injuries around the world.

Yant: As I learned more about the non-profit organizations attempting to raise money for spinal-cord research, I called a lady named Michelle Alioto whose 19-year-old daughter had sustained a skiing injury a couple of years after my accident. I told Mrs. Alioto that I was interested in raising money for spinal-cord research. I set a personal goal to try and raise $25,000 that first year. I never considered the possibility of raising more money than that.

In less than a year, Mrs. Alioto called and asked me, “How would you like to be on the national board of directors of the American Paralysis Association?” Even though this was a volunteer position, of course I was thrilled. Michelle was very charismatic lady, so I jumped at the opportunity to join the board of directors. The American Paralysis Association evolved into the Christopher Reeve Association, and then the name was changed to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Today it’s called the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

In the 30 years I’ve been working with this group, I’ve been able to help raise about $8 million for spinal-cord research. Talking to people one-on-one on the phone or in person raised most of the $8 million. One of the things I did to help raise this money occurred after I met a lady named Jackie O’Hara in Orange County, California. Mrs. O’Hara has a son named Michael Knott who is a part of the family that owns Knotts Berry Farms, a big amusement park here in Orange County, second only in size to Disneyland. Michael Knott became a C5 quadriplegic two years after my injury.  By holding fund-raising events Mrs. O’Hara and her friends raised about $100,000 a year for 20 years. That one group contributed $2 million for spinal-cord research over 20 years.

I searched for other methods to get more money going toward spinal-cord research. In 1989 I started a company called Research Medical, a retail company that sold urological supplies. It was much like the company UroMed today. We took 10% of the profits from Research Medical and donated that money to organizations trying to develop cures for the customers of Research Medical.  The company was quite successful. We started it in our garage and sold the company in 1996. At that time, we had 50 employees with about half of them in wheelchairs. We had a reverse discriminatory hiring practice, in that we would hire people in wheelchairs, even if they weren’t trained or experienced in what we wanted them to do. We tried to help rehabilitate their lives by providing meaningful work and income. Our CFO and CEO both had spinal-cord injuries.

SCI Research has been a key focus of every company Bob has lead over the last 30 years.

SCI Research has been a key focus of every company Bob has lead over the last 30 years.

Although starting and building the company was very exciting for me, my passion always had been to help develop a cure for spinal-cord injuries. Research Medical was not only the vehicle that employed individuals with spinal-cord injuries, it also contributed to spinal-cord research, which was my ultimate goal. I continued my fundraising efforts from the time the company was formed through all of the growing stages of the business. I was raising as much money, if not more, during the time we were building the business as I was before then. Twice a year, I’d attend a national board of directors meeting of the American Paralysis Association.

Cash flow problems are endemic to retail urological supply companies.  Most of those companies bill their customers’ insurance companies and/or Medicare and Medicaid. The retail urological supply companies are dependent on the insurance companies and Medicare to pay for those supplies. Research Medical constantly had cash flow problems because Medicare would take 90 to 120 days to reimburse.  Meanwhile the suppliers we bought from demanded to be paid in 30 days. One time Medicare withheld $200,000 in payments for two years.  The money was for closed-system catheters. Toward the end of the business, we were really more of an accounts-receivable company than a medical supply company. Then someone came along and made us a good offer to buy the company, so the company was sold in 1996.

Why Bob Yant Is Excited about the Future for Spinal Cord Injuries

Although Bob Yant has gone through all four steps of loss, he’s never given-up on the idea that one day there’ll be a cure for spinal-cord injuries.  He works toward raising money and providing help for researchers in spinal-cord injuries. He seeks an ultimate cure that will restore all functions to all individuals who have spinal-cord injuries around the world.

I’d always been interested and tried to learn all I could about spinal-cord-injury research. After Research Medical was sold, I spent more time working as a volunteer fundraiser. In addition to the money I was raising for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, I raised a couple of million dollars for a type of gene therapy research being developed at the University of California at San Diego. I was able to get small grants that led to bigger grants, which led to $15 million in federal grants to establish a primate colony at the University of California at Davis, where research was being done on spinal-cord injuries. The researchers are experimenting with regenerating the spinal cord. Because of my interest in the subject, I’ve met about 300 scientists from all over who are conducting research on spinal-cord injuries. I’ve traveled to dozens of scientific meetings everywhere to meet these scientists and find out what’s being developed to possibly regenerate the spinal cord.

Bob often attends fundraising events in the hopes of encouraging more sponsors to support SCI research.

Bob often attends fundraising events in the hopes of encouraging more sponsors to support SCI research.

From meeting with these scientists, I’ve learned that the goal is achievable. The biggest problem of spinal cord research is funding the research. After learning about all the research being conducted, I started looking for a way to build another company, so that if it were successful, I’d have another vehicle to get the money to give to research. I wanted a company that didn’t involve Medicare, as I didn’t want to run another accounts receivable company. I decided that instead of setting-up a retail company, I’d start a manufacturing company that made products and sold them to retail companies like UroMed. Then we could take 10% of the profits and donate that to spinal cord research. We looked at all the catheters on the marketplace and began to study what we could do to make them better. We realized that catheters were very personal items, and that to encourage people to change to new catheters, we had to develop one that was significantly better. The first thing our company did was develop eyelets (holes in the catheter) and made them smoother than other catheters on the market. Our goal was to lessen the trauma of inserting a catheter, so that there was no bleeding or tearing of the skin and to make the catheter easier and more comfortable to use. I use catheters too, so I understand the problems. We’re the only company that offers polished eyelets throughout our entire product line.

Manufacturers use a plasticizer to make plastic catheters flexible. The plasticizer being used by most of the catheter manufacturers is carcinogenic (could cause cancer). That plasticizer went by the acronym of DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate). The plasticizers we use have no DEHP in them.  People with spinal cord injuries have an above average rate of bladder cancer.  Young people are far more susceptible to cancer than adults. Using Cure Medical catheters could lower the risk of cancer for people with spinal cord injuries and young people.

You'll see the DEHP-free logo on all Cure Medical products.

You'll see the DEHP-free logo on all Cure Medical products.

Besides the catheter improvements, Cure Medical donates 10% of the profits from the company to spinal cord research. I’m proud that our company has been funding researchers we feel have made tremendous breakthroughs in spinal cord regeneration. For the first time in history, researchers have been able to regenerate the nerves in the spinal cord that control movement.  At this point, if animal results from this research can be translated to humans, it is possible to regenerate the nerves two segments of the spine.

What that means to a person like me, who has a C5 spinal cord injury, is that if I have two-more levels of regeneration on my spinal cord, I’ll have full use of my hands. I also will be completely independent for my personal care needs. Then I’ll be able to catheterize myself, prepare my own meals, drive a car and get myself in and out of bed – a total change of lifestyle for me. If everything works out right, from what we know now, we may be testing some of this research on human beings within few years.

For the testing to be approved for wide spread human use, the testing must go through three phases. Each one of those phases requires approximately two years. If everything works out right, then in eight years or so there may be a treatment that can restore these two segments of the spinal cord. Some people who have such a high injury to their spinal cords only can breathe through respirators. With these two segments regenerated, there’s a very-good likelihood that these individuals perhaps can come-off their respirators and breath on their own. People with lower thoraxic (bottom of the spinal cord) spinal cord injuries may get bowel, sexual, bladder and walking functions back.

Bob believes the sky is the limit for SCI research advancements!

Bob believes the sky is the limit for SCI research advancements!

A very recent announcement about this research is tremendously encouraging.  By blocking two signals instead of just one, researchers regenerated 10 times the number of nerves previously regenerated.  The research was done in the optic nerve so researchers are attempting this approach in the spinal cord.  This discovery opens up the possibility of long distance regeneration.  If this research continues to progress, there is a possibility to restore all functions in all spinal cord injured individuals.

This exciting new research offers hope and promise for those of us who have spinal cord injuries. This possibility makes me adamant about raising money for research. I’m very excited about the future for all people with spinal cord injuries.

About Cure Medical:  The Cure Commitment is unsurpassed in the industry. Only Cure Medical has committed to donating 10% of net profits to SCI scientific research. Only Cure Medical catheters are DEHP and BPA free. Simply by using new Cure Catheters® or Cure Catheter® Closed Systems for routine intermittent catheterization, you take part in the sustained pursuit of a cure.  Learn more at http://www.curemedical.com.

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

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