WATERTOWN – Former town resident Andy Williams and his business partner have chosen a name for the medical device that will help him and so many others.
Mr Williams was a patient at the Cleveland Clinic with a rare nerve disorder when he came up with the life-changing idea.
For the past few years, he, his business partner, Dr Eric Yudelevich, and an eight-person team from Cleveland Clinic Innovations have been working on the medical device, a prototype feeding tube that would protect Mr Williams and others. users of trips to the emergency room and possible hospitalization.
While COVID-19 has delayed some of this work, feeding tube development is back on track and should be ready for patient trials this fall, so it can be determined if it will. works and the United States Food and Drug Administration can approve it.
“It’s still under development,” said project manager Thad D. Meese, associate director of project development for Cleveland Clinic Innovations, a branch of the clinic that helps develop medical devices.
Dr Yudelevich, a primary care and internal medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, was Mr Williams’ doctor before they became partners in developing the technology, now known as GioBey, although the name may change later.
The name comes from a combination of Mr. Williams’ middle name, Giovanni, and the doctor’s real name, Blumrosen “Eric” Yudelevich, where the “Bey” is from, Mr. Williams explained.
Suffering from a rare nerve disorder for years, Mr Williams was susceptible to infections from a feeding tube he has to use due to his illnesses.
The Watertown native frequently visited the ER for infections caused by leaking feeding tubes. This often resulted in hospitalization.
Leakage issues have caused embarrassing situations for Mr Williams. The acidic fluids often dripped onto his clothes and he had to change his shirt several times a day, he explained.
It helps change that for feeding tube users.
It’s rare for a patient to come to the Innovations team with a solution to a problem and also be the inventor, Meese said.
He was immediately impressed with Mr. Williams and the concept drawings and diagrams he brought with him to an initial meeting. It sounded very much like an idea that could work, Mr. Meese recalls.
He also recalled how Mr Williams had spoken of the pain he had to endure using a feeding tube.
“I was so taken with him,” Mr Meese said, saying his unique and enthusiastic personality had also come through.
In current practice, a feeding tube is surgically placed directly into the digestive tract, but the tube is prone to significant leakage. Highly acidic liquids can irritate and injure patients. Leaks can also make social life difficult, preventing patients from leading normal lives.
But Mr. Williams, a former Watertown resident who moved to Cleveland, Ohio, four years ago to be close to the treatment he needs, needed the medical device that protects the opening in the abdomen, called a stoma. . The device kept him away from the many hospital trips that were now part of his life.
“Now we’ll see if it works on other patients,” Williams said.
If it works, up to 500,000 people in the United States could be using the device at any one time, Meese said.
If all goes well, Meese predicted that the device could be ready for sale within a few years. Either the Cleveland Clinic would continue to own the rights to the device or a medical manufacturing company would purchase them and then produce a new type of feeding tubes.
Six years ago Mr Williams, 51, an avid camper and hiker, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a chronic debilitating nerve disorder that causes muscle weakness and pain, seizures and gastrointestinal problems. It is estimated that one in 4,000 people suffer from this progressive and incurable disease.
Over the years, he underwent a dozen surgeries at the Cleveland Clinic, where he was treated for a nervous disorder, bladder failure, digestive problems, and Alstrom’s syndrome, which causes progressive loss of vision. He was told he would end up blind.
But miraculously, it appears Alstrom’s syndrome is gone, possibly from the many vitamins and supplements he takes, he said.
At one point, his illnesses became so debilitating that much of his large intestine was removed, leaving him unable to eat.
But his state of health did not prevent him from enjoying the outdoors. Despite warnings from his doctors that he might die, he made many camping trips in the Adirondack Mountains. In 2018, he and a cousin fulfilled a lifelong dream of traveling across the country, a trip that took three months. They traveled 20,000 miles in Mr. Williams’ 2016 Dodge Journey to visit the country’s best-known national parks.
This summer, Mr. Williams, who often visits Watertown, has taken a few short camping trips that consist of hikes that only last a mile or two because his energy levels have dropped, he said.
But it was a drive from Lake Placid in October 2017 that changed her life forever. When he got home, Mr. Williams used his working days as a plumber to work on the idea that night. He tried the device on himself that same night. It worked.
Mr Meese says the device could make people’s lives easier.
The invention could also make Mr. Williams a very wealthy man. While the Cleveland Clinic owns the patent and intellectual property, Mr. Williams and Dr. Yudelevich will share his royalties, even after his death, the Watertown native said.
On disability from his job at a concrete company, Mr Williams was first struck down in 2007. He was diagnosed in 2015.
In 2016, Mr Williams nearly died from one of his infections. His entire body was septic and he had to be transferred by emergency medical jet to Cleveland, where he received treatment.
Mr Williams, who grew up on East Division Street on the north side of the city, believes his illnesses were caused by pollutants spilled decades ago at the former New York Air Brake Co. factory off the coast of Starbuck Avenue.
In 1995, the state Department of Environmental Conservation dredged Kelsey Creek and removed contaminants and soil. The DEC believes it removed the pollutants, and they never entered the soil, so residents’ complaints of health issues have never been proven.
The current company that runs Air Brake was not the cause of the pollutants. SPX, the North Carolina company that once owned the plant, paid $2.5 million for two environmental cleanup projects near the site five years ago.
Mr. Williams and two neighbours, his brother James P. and Scott W. Barker, who also believe their neurological illnesses were caused by the contaminants, had hoped to take legal action. In 2012, they involved environmental activist Erin Brockovich and her California law firm to determine if their health issues were caused by the spilled contaminants.
Vititoe Law Firm was featured in the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” which starred Julia Roberts as the environmental activist. They won a $333 million lawsuit against the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in California for families affected by pollutants from the power company.
His team agreed to represent a few hundred northerners who believed they were suffering health problems from the toxic chemicals dumped at the Starbuck Avenue site.
She tapped Los Angeles attorney Thomas V. Girardi, considered the nation’s top environmental lawyer, to be lead counsel in the case.
But their case never came to fruition.
Later, Mr. Williams called and spoke directly to Mr. Girardi about why this was not the case. The lawyer told him that the statute of limitations had expired, so he could not continue.
Then last year, a documentary that aired on Hulu described how Mr. Girardi, 82, and his wife Erika Jayne, 49, a cast member of the Housewives of Beverly Hills, lived lavish lifestyles.
The documentary, “The Housewife and the Hustler,” told the scandalous story of how the attorney allegedly embezzled millions of dollars from the victims’ families. His business then went bankrupt and he later claimed he had Alzheimer’s disease.
Amid legal woes, the couple divorced.
But the scandal has Mr Williams now wondering why the legal claims of several hundred people in the north of the country were never successful. He will probably never know what really happened.
So his focus now is on GioBey and how he can help so many people like him.