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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

Why I Design Products To Help People With Illness

Written by Denise Anstey on 
5th August, 2019
Updated: 29th January, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

I am Denise Anstey, Managing Director of Heartfelt Products

I design a variety of products of which, I hope, will fundamentally help people in their daily lives. This could be aiding people emotionally, practically or generally whilst keeping a low environmental footprint in the products construction and sourcing the majority of the products component parts from the U.K.

At school I felt destined to become an Engineer like my father but as I was a girl leaving school in the 1980’s this career choice was closed to me. It never altered the interest I had in product design such as how things evolved from initial thoughts to prototypes and the research which is undertaken as part of the process.  After leaving school I was employed for a brief period within the NHS working with the Research teams.  It was my first introduction in learning about the problem’s patients had to overcome in their daily life as part of the recovery process or ongoing disability. It wasn’t however, until I suffered from a long-term illness myself and then later a car accident that my real understanding of necessity in design became fully understood. It was then that designing became more of a need so I fundamentally understood what would work in a products design derived from my own illnesses and disability.  

My first product was the SLIK STIK walking stick

This came about after my car accident which I was involved in way back in 1998.  My subsequent twelve-year disability provided me valuable insight and understanding of the products needed to aid me through those difficult times. The first six years were mostly bed based with a loss of 90% movement of my right arm and other injuries.  It was a difficult time and numerous Consultant Surgeons made the comment that it was unlikely I would improve. I held a positive attitude and belief that my body would heal itself in its own time, however long that might take, I was more determined to overcome my problems than the alternative. I refused to use a walking stick and so my mother entered the bedroom one day with a pencil and paper and threw them on the bed.  She then instructed me to design a walking stick I would use and begin to do something constructive with my time.

The SLIK STIK had special angled LED lights in the head of the stick which provided forward and angled illumination for steps, red flashing LED’s for crossing the road in the dark, a panic alarm for alerting help, a special non slip coating on the head of the stick for the hands and a special ergonomic shape to fit the grip.  It was lightweight, slightly less bulky, foldable, powered by mains charge but for times when this charge may be fully expended such as during outings provision of a handle was made on the side of the head of the stick which you could wind to generate 20 mins of extra power per 3 minute of winding. 

This product won me the award of British Female Inventor and Innovator 2009 and even today we are currently re-designing the SLIK STIK to help a wider health sector of users.

My twelve-year disability seemed like an eternity, but I did improve and get better of which I am very grateful for and using this time to focus on designing products to help people in a similar situation or who have health issues was and still is so important to me.

The second product I spent time developing is the ICE (In Case of Emergency) Alert pocket leather medical wallet

This was developed at a later point when my mobility increased to enable me to leave home on my own. The wallet securely holds a small booklet where the user writes their pertinent health information such as illness type, medications, allergies, specific medical handling etc which ensures it is all available at a glance for the Paramedics or Ambulance crew if you were to have an accident or collapse. There is also a section at the back of the booklet for a ‘Pet at Home’ in the event you collapse so your pet can be looked after by your specified emergency contact.

The ICE Alert wallet is also sold with a Key Fob to alert the Emergency Services you carry an ICE Alert wallet plus we can supply ICE Alert Door Stickers as requested.  The door stickers can be placed on the inside of a front door and act as a reminder for the person to carry their ICE Alert wallet.

The ICE Alert wallets are available to everyone and are useful if you have a health issue, are on medications or who have allergies etc we also sell to Dementia and Memory Clubs. 

We always welcome reviews on our products and some of the responses we have received include people who had been diagnosed and/or recovering from Cancer.

One of the comments was from a lady who had Breast Cancer who made notes in the ’Specific Medical Handling’ section that her left arm was not to be used for any drips, blood taking etc as her Sentinel Node had been removed and use of this arm could cause her to develop Lymphedema. 
Another person noted that they felt a sense of relief at not having to rely on their partner to remember their drugs and allergy list.  They didn’t feel in an emergency that their partner would recall all their relevant details accurately. 
And another, noted that they hadn’t left the house on their own since their recovery as they didn’t feel confident enough but having the wallet gave them a sense of independence because they knew if anything were to happen to them all their medical details were all written down.

I have personally also tested the full product lifecycle of the ICE Alert wallet. Last year when I returned home from a holiday in Europe and within five minutes of feeling ill, I collapsed on the bathroom floor. The Ambulance crew were called and on arrival at the house were handed my ICE Alert wallet, all the information that they needed was easily available to them and they were pleased to just copy the information onto their notes.  The information they needed was immediately available which also meant my partner didn’t have to recall any of my medical information.  I never leave the house without it as it worked beautifully and I am so pleased I designed it although I always hoped that it would never be needed.

Our latest product is our Happy Quilt which was designed for my Aunt

I always said was my top Sale’s Person as she use to sell the ICE Alert to Dementia/Memory clubs, that is until she fell ill. My Aunt was so supportive of my endeavours and was like a second mum to me so it was quite frustrating that she lived over 250 miles away. The distance made it difficult to visit her on a regular basis but I wanted her to feel that we were always there with her, so I made her a modern day patchwork quilt which we call the Happy Quilt.  I used all the fabric themes I knew she would like such as a variety of florals in a general colour of green and used special fabric on which I printed photographs of the family and appliqued these onto the quilts to cheer her up.  The quilt had a super cosy backing so it was very snuggly but also lightweight and washable which was important. I would ring her three times a day to see how she was feeling and she would always say she was covered in her quilt and surrounded in the family’s love. She felt we were all there with her which was comforting to know and even though she felt so ill she was surrounded by us all and could cosy up with us. 

The Happy Quilt was formally launched in January 2019 and we have a very specific build criteria such as we only use the best quality fabrics and we handmake each one locally in Devon.  The ability to offer a bespoke element to customers is so important which means we can make a quilt specifically designed with the recipient in mind.  This includes choosing colours, patterns, themes, using embroidery (wording, phrases etc) etc and the ability to add the photographs which is such a lovely touch and one we hope will bring smiles to cheer people up. The photographs can be of family, friends, pets, places of interest the list is endless this is also a great present for someone living with Dementia.

I know from my own disability that I would have welcomed anything so beautiful and Heartfelt to help keep me cheerful in my lowest feeling hours.

I hope that our products will bring great comfort to everyone who receives them because

Our heart is truly in everything we do.

Further reading

Thoughtful And Appropriate Breast Cancer Gifts For Women

What we do

Corporate Partners

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Cancer Care Parcel Ltd. Registered in England and Wales.
Trading Address: Highstone House, 165 High Street, Barnet, Herts. EN5 5SU, UK. Registered Office: 7a High Street, Barnet, Herts, EN5 5UE.
Company Number 14415197, VAT number is GB428826076,  EORI number is XI428826076000