Wetherby inventor's breakthrough set to change lives of Motor Neurone Disease patients

A Wetherby engineer whose new invention was developed partly in his dad's shed has seen his hard work starting to pay off for patients with Motor Neurone Disease.

Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 1:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 1:42 pm
Inventor Dane McGee outside the shed where it all began.

Dane McGee, managing of director of Thorp Arch-based Mobility with Dignity, has spent nearly ten years designing his new mattress system which allows sufferers to adjust their bed using only their eyes.It hasn't been easy - or cheap - to get to this point. Significant investment has had to be won over the years while his revolutionary technology was adapted to meet the needs of both patients and the commercial world.But this Collingham-based family man is delighted his revolutionary piece of equipment to make sufferers' lives more comfortable and independent has won backing from an NHS Trust.Dane said: "My aim at the start was to invent something to improve health care in general."But, when I was doing fact-finding, I met people from the Motor Neurone Disease community and that inspired me to take a different direction."One sufferer asked me if I could use my background in mechanical engineering to design a better bed for him.""My mattress is good for relieving pressure which could help reduce the risk of bed sores. The key thing is that it can be operated by the sufferer themselves."Married with two children, Dane's invention is now being trialled with a real MND sufferer thanks to the support of the NHS in Bradford and the city’s Adult Social Services Department.Alan Livett , a 61-year-old Baildon man who has no use of his legs and struggles with movement, says the new comfier mattress system has transformed his life.He said: "If I wanted to change my position in bed I used to have to wait for a nurse. "I don't like to disturb my family at night time but the mattress has given me back my independence and I'm sleeping much better."Dane, 46, was born into family where mechanical engineering, rather than health care, ran in the blood.His father ran his own engineering firm in Leeds which at its peak had a total of 70 .For obvious reasons, this had an impact on family life but it lay the seeds for Dane's later development as an inventor.Dane said: "The best way to get time with my dad was to help him with the charity work he did with the Variety Club of Great Britain."It meant I met lots of children who were disadvantaged or disabled. Little did I know at the time that years later I would get so involved in health care."Dane first started work on his invention in 2008 with the help of a business partner and private investors.The finished piece of equipment is very far from his first prototype, which was considerably bigger, more expensive and different in scope, which is where his dad's shed came in.Dane said: "The idea at the beginning was to use my engineering skills to develop equipment to help people living with disabilities get in and out of bed. "I didn't have enough space to put it anywhere where I lived to build it so I started working on it in my dad's shed in Wetherby."I designed and tested it there for seven months, then built the first prototype in my dad's conservatory, which was bigger!"As anyone who knows anything about inventors and inventions will tell you, the gap between the dream and the reality is usually sizable.Dane's invention has gone through many phases and required significant amounts of support from generous private investors over the years, won with pitches and presentations much in the manner of TV's Dragon's Den show.The breakthrough came when Dane came to the conclusion that his own invention - a tube system which inflates and deflates the mattress - needed to be combined for the beneft of patients with other technologies already developed by existing Yorkshire companies.The finished mattress by Mobility with Dignity now includes a control system for the mattress designed in conjunction with DH2 Solutions which links to a screen operated by eye movement. In addition there is a pressure mapping system from Sidhil Ltd which also handily maps the pressure points of a patient's body.The end result is mattress that is a lot comfier and more controllable for patientsDane said: "The advice and guidance provided by Bradford NHS in creating the final version of the bed has been fantastic. The level of support from them has been amazing."I finally realised that rather than trying to reinvent the wheel completely, I should work with existing technology."The end result is unique. To the best of my knowledge, Alan is the first immobile person in the world to have the ability to achieve this level of control over his comfort in bed using just his eyes."Who knows what is going to happen in these troubled times of austerity and Brexit but Dane is confident his new invention has a potentially much wider application across the health care sector.



Motor Neurone Disease sufferer Alan Livett using the new eye-operated technology.
Motor Neurone Disease sufferer Alan Livett using the new eye-operated technology.