Your Story: The Ability Bra

This inspired OT created an adaptive bra to help women gain more independence

More than 25 years ago (and many years before I became an OT) my grandmother suffered a stroke which left her unable to use her left arm. Fortunately, she was able to walk with a cane and resume living alone in her apartment. Unfortunately, because she never regained use of her left arm, she could not bring the two sides of her bra together to fasten it. She was able to perform all other aspects of dressing using compensatory techniques but we could find no solution to help her be independent with putting on and fastening her bra. Because my grandmother was a stickler for looking good and feeling good, my mother would visit grandma every morning and put her bra on for her. Needless to say we always kept our eyes open for a bra that she could fasten.They kept up this morning routine for more than seven years until grandma entered a nursing home.
Eventually, at age 30, I realized I had a real love for helping people find adaptive equipment, learning compensatory techniques, etc. so I returned to school and two+ years later received my masters degree in occupational therapy from the University of Indianapolis. That is when I realized other women were struggling with the same problem my grandmother and mother had faced, and it wasn't just women who suffered from a stroke. Women with rotator cuff injuries, MS, CP, amputations, neuropathy, visual deficits, Carpal Tunnel, etc. After many trial and errors I decided to invent a bra that would help these women regain their dignity and independence with the very personal task of putting on a bra. Between working part-time, giving birth to and raising three daughters, and taking care of our home I finally came up with a solution. However, bras do not come in one size and so it is not an easy product to manufacture. Time and time again I almost gave up on the idea and every time I backed off I would meet someone who would benefit from the bra.
There is not a "business" bone in my body so I was terrified of having to get a patent, establish a company, research the market, find a manufacturer, come up with money to have it manufactured, design a Web site, packaging and brochure and so on. As of last month I finally invested in my first 250 bras and I've sold two. When those first orders came in I was ecstatic. Better yet, when the first buyer's daughter emailed me and said she was so happy because her mother could finally put on her own bra, well, that made it all worth while.
I only wish my grandmother was still alive to enjoy the full independence she would have achieved with Ability Bra! I owe a great deal to my grandmother because her disability inspired me to become part of one of the greatest professions in the world. I love being an occupational therapist and I sincerely thank God every time I go to work!

Lynn Kilbride, MS, OTR
Registry OT at Marian Joy Rehab Hospital
Wheaton, IL

Tell Us Your Story!
ADVANCE Online is seeking stories about the best part of OT--a challenging diagnosis, a tough decision, or that moment where you realize you've truly touched a patient's life. We want to showcase your talents and experiences. We'll choose the best stories to appear in our web edition. And if we choose your submission, you'll also receive $25!

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