Every now and then, you learn a new nugget of Dayton history that paints an even more colorful picture of innovation.
For example, for 30 years, a Dayton, family-owned company has been the most recognizable supplier in the world of therapeutic pillows for hospital patients. Shumsky Therapeutic Pillows was birthed from the Shumsky family of creative product brands in 1984 when Michael Emoff, Shumsky’s Chief Vision Officer, discovered hospitals typically would rely on rolled-up and taped towels to support and comfort healing patients.
Emoff has since expanded the original heart-shaped therapeutic pillow into a line of 17 different patented, customized, hand-stuffed and even educational pillow products. Today, about 250,000 pillows are distributed to 1,000 hospitals around the world. Most notably, Shumsky has donated hundreds of pillows over the past 10 years to Team Heart, an effort in Rwanda that helps fight the heart disease epidemic that is particularly targeting Rwanda’s youth population.
Until you see what makes a Shumsky Pillow more than a pillow, it might be hard to understand how an everyday item like this has gotten so much attention, including in movies and TV shows featuring hospital scenes like “Madam Secretary.” From the beginning, design help from Dr. Kenneth H. Oberheu of Miami Valley Hospital and a team of passionate, creative individuals has made the Shumsky product what it is today.
“Two weeks ago, we got a phone call at 1 a.m. and she (the caller) was cleaning out her attic and she came across her husband’s pillow (after he) passed away and she said this was the one thing that he cherished more than anything else,” said Beth Rich, Shumsky Therapeutic Pillows Customer Success Manager. “The caller said, ‘It kept him going’ and then she said ‘I want to make sure you never stop making this pillow.’”
Rich said emotional, heartfelt calls like this are not unique.
The hand-stuffed pillows are more comfortable and customized for patients recovering from specific surgeries than a standard pillow. It not only makes recovering more manageable, it’s a tool to make coughing safer and more comfortable for people recovering from heart surgery
The educational component is a facet of the Shumsky Pillow that is unique to the brand. Often printed on one side of the pillow is a diagram of whichever part of the body the doctor will be operating on. The doctor is able to use markers to demonstrate on the pillow for the patient, exactly what she or he will be doing during the procedure. This not only helps educate patients and brings some peace of mind, it also can be instrumental during the recovery process, Emoff said.
Just like excited teenagers will eagerly sign their classmates’ casts during class and vie for a prime signature location, friends, family, nurses and doctors will sign the patient’s pillow with messages of love and good wishes.
“We’ve created a great brand,” Emoff said. “We help people, and they call us and leave messages about it. Especially now more than ever with Facebook. People after surgery will tag us in a pic in their hospital bed with a thumbs up and one of our pillows. It is kind of a new way of instant feedback. And it’s great because we can take that feedback and take it to hospitals and say, ‘See what you can do?’”