If you've ever transferred a patient from a bed to a wheelchair, you've probably thought there must be a better way. Well, according to a Medford man who invented a new lifting device, there is.
Meet the Hawk Easy Lift. The patented transfer system is designed to easily and safely lift those who need help getting in and out of bed, according to its inventors, Gary and Linda Hawk of Medford.
The Hawks run a licensed foster home caring for elderly patients. Several years ago Linda was pushed almost to her limit while caring for five hospice patients at one time.
"You know what that does to your back," she says. "I told Gary what I needed. He disappeared into his shop for three days and came back with the prototype."
The lift attaches to either side of a hospital bed, sliding over the headboard and swinging back to rest against the wall when not in use. Powered by a plug-in electric motor, it works with one button.
Linda Hawk demonstrates the lift using her 95-year-old mother, Lorraine Pollock, as a test subject. The main arm swings over Pollock with a cross-piece dangling like a T-bar on the ski slopes.
Linda snaps it to the micro-fiber blanket her mother is lying on, and Gary lifts her in a hammock-like cocoon.
"That feels good on the ears," Pollock says.
That's because the fleecy blanket supporting her has a built-in pillow at its top end.
"There's nothing that can hurt a person," Linda Hawk says. "And you're in close contact with them, not standing three feet away."
The motor is rated for 300 pounds, Gary Hawk says, but he's sent the Occupational Safety and Health Administration engineering reports detailing the device's performance in lifting more than 500 pounds with a hydraulic lift.
"It's getting more common that we're seeing patients of those kinds of weights," he says.
Linda Hawk says caregivers can leave the fleecy blanket under elderly patients after each transfer without irritation or risk of bed sores. The lift also permits them to change sheets with a minimum of disturbance. She says the things are so comfortable she has fallen asleep while demonstrating them at trade shows.
There's also a self-operated model. One is being used by the Hawks' grandson, who came back from military service in Iraq paralyzed from the armpits down after a bomb blew up his Humvee.
The lift is patented — U.S. Patent 6,964,070 is displayed on the wall — but the Hawks have done little marketing. They sell the lifts online at www.hawkeasylift.com (e-mail email@example.com). The standard model sells for $2,895, and self-operated models or those for the morbidly obese cost more.
The Easy Lift has not been approved for purchase by Medicare. The Hawks say the road to such approval is long and complex. Gary has thought of selling the rights, perhaps in a deal that would include royalties.
A plumbing contractor before his retirement, Gary Hawk also holds a patent for a device that sights a compound bow with extreme accuracy. He has invented, but not patented, the Hawkeye Tire Changer, a jack that lifts not the car or truck with a flat but the tire itself, and the spare that replaces it. And the Hawkeye Fish Cleaning Station, which mounts outside the gunwales of a boat. To comply with Oregon law, the cleaning station allows you to catch the viscera in a plastic bag and be on your way down the river.
Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.