January 6, 2017
Dennis McCoy | Sacramento Business Journal
A four-time cancer survivor is turning life’s adversities into an opportunity to help others.
Cinde Dolphin, 63, is creator of the Kili Medical Drain Carrier. It’s a pouch that fits around a patient’s waist after an operation, allowing them a comfortable alternative to storing tubing and medical drains, minus the hassle of pinning those tubes to a hospital gown or clothes.
“This small ability to manage these drains gives you a little bit of control of your life,” said Dolphin.
After surgery, patients often receive a medical drain — tubing that goes into the wound area, attached to skin with sutures. The drain is used to let blood and other fluids out of the body, and collect in a plastic bulb, to assist the healing process.
Medical drains are frequently used on breast cancer patients after mastectomies.
Physical movement with the drains is often painful for patients. Sometimes little more than a safety pin holds a drain in place.
It’s a feeling Dolphin knows all too well, having dealt with cancer four times from 1994 to 2012. She was treated three times for breast cancer, and once for a cancerous lump on her lung.
After her most recent surgery, Dolphin required four medical drains. “Pinning them onto my clothing was just not an option,” she said. “When you change clothing, what do you do? There’s nothing to pin it to. Or when you bathe? You can’t pin it to your skin.”
After brainstorming ways to make wearing the medical drains more comfortable, at the end of 2013 Dolphin developed her first medical drain carrier, basing the concept on an apron-type design, but made out of mesh material.
She created her company, simply called Medical Drain Carrier (Kili is the brand) about two years ago, with help and feedback from Sacramento SCORE and the Capital Region Small Business Development Center — local groups with resources and services to assist small businesses.
Prior to starting her company, Dolphin worked as a beer and wine marketer for 24 years. She currently works in that capacity part time, doing the newsletter for Story Winery in Plymouth.
She has financed the company with a $22,000 loan obtained with help from the Small Business Development Center, which is operated by the Sacramento Metro Chamber and College of Business Administration at California State University Sacramento.
Dolphin said she her company broke even last year on about $5,000 in revenue. She projects revenue of around $20,000 for this year, and profits of $15,000, depending on the number of contracts she’s able to garner. The endeavor, while not a money-maker so far, has become a full-time venture.
Empathy for others dealing with cancer and other ailments is Dolphin’s primary motivation, not money, she said. “We kind of form a community, those of us who have survived cancer, and (we) look back and help others,” Dolphin said.
Each drain carrier costs about $1 to make. Dolphin sells them to hospitals in bulk at $5 apiece. The mesh carriers are made in China, while a decorative cloth version of the carrier is made in Tanzania. Dolphin named the devices “Kili” in homage to porters who carry goods up Mount Kilimanjaro.
Thus far she’s been mostly a one-woman operation, visiting with nurses, doctors and anyone able to use the drain carriers to help patients or loved ones.
Her efforts are gaining some traction. Dolphin said UC Davis Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, UC Davis Medical Center’s Pre-Op and Post-Anaesthesia Care Unit, Sutter Medical Center, Sutter Auburn Faith Center, University of Chicago Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital in Denver have all used the carriers in some capacity.
The carriers also sell for about $12.99 apiece at the HealthQuest Inc. medical supply store in Fair Oaks.
“Hospitals are getting it,” Dolphin said. “They understand that this should be part of their discharge procedure, assuring safety and comfort for their patient as they go home.”
Gary Kurtz, nurse manager in the pre-op and post-anaesthesia care unit UC Davis Medical Center, said he orders about 100 drain carriers from Dolphin every six months, dealing with her directly for about the past year and a half.
Kurtz said $5 per carrier is relatively inexpensive when it comes to medical devices. “It seems to have worked very well. I think it’s a great benefit. They are very convenient,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz has referred Dolphin to other nurse managers at UC Davis Medical Center who might see the drain carrier as a benefit for patients. “I am very happy to support her, the little bit that we do,” Kurtz said.
Cindy Love is executive of Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation, a Sacramento-based organization that provides services to women who are fighting breast cancer. Dolphin has donated several drain carriers to the foundation, and Love said they’ve greatly assisted patients.
Love said having to face a mastectomy is difficult enough without the added difficulty of managing the drains. Love said the mesh carriers are particularly helpful because they can be used inside a shower. “Having the ease of being able to shower or put a shirt on is really important,” Love said. The patients “are beyond grateful.”
Stephanie Merten, 43, a breast cancer survivor, said she met Dolphin in 2015 at a winery. They struck up a conversation after Dolphin noticed Merten was losing her hair due to chemotherapy. Dolphin went out to her car, grabbed a drain carrier and gave it to Merten.
Merten said the drain carrier was helpful after her bilateral mastectomy. She was also able to use the drain carrier after her reconstructive surgery.
Merten said the drains and associated tubing can become heavy, and the drain carrier helps disperse the weight. “I want anyone who is going to be facing a drain to have one of these drain carriers,” Merten said.
Dolphin said she is currently “in talks” to hopefully get the drain carriers included in the packaging with the drains themselves.
In the meantime, she will continue spreading the word to medical professionals, and will always have a drain carrier on-hand for someone in need.
“I know that I am blessed and fortunate and I have survived,” she said.
Education: Masters in social science from California State University Fullerton, bachelor’s degree in mass communication from San Diego State University
What is your passion in life?“Seeing people learn the benefits of giving to the community or those in their world. Just doing something good is an adrenaline rush, I wish more people would know that.”
What would you consider your fantasy job?“I am doing it. Giving back to the world and learning wonderful stories along the way.”
Biggest professional worry:“That purchasing agents at hospitals are not going realize how important it is to have the Kili Medical Drain Carrier for their patients.”
Toughest professional decision:“To walk away from a salaried position and become an enterprise.”
Victor Patton covers technology and health care.