Ten years ago, nurse Karen Tsang consoled a crying mother who couldn’t leave the hospital for a simple but debilitating reason: because her infant’s nostrils were filled with snot, the baby couldn’t eat.
This conversation, and over 35 years of pediatric nursing experience, led Tsang to look into a more user-friendly, at-home approach to solving this problem. The result was MyKare, a reusable, safe and effective suction device that she began developing in 2015 to provide an at-home option for thousands of struggling parents. Now, MyKare Inc. is a semifinalist for one of NC IDEA’s $50K SEED grants.
“We have seen over 800,000 kids in the emergency room because of just stuffy nose and bronchiolitis, which if you don’t clear the nasal mucus, will cause severe illness and dehydration,” Tsang. “They accounted for 17% of infant hospitalization in the nation.”
Traditionally, an infant’s nose would be cleared by disposable tubes, but these could grow mold in as little as a day, making the treatment unsafe, unsustainable and ineffective.
Throughout her time developing MyKare, Tsang has continued to work as a pediatric nurse at WakeMed hospitals. She has seen how important at-home solutions like MyKare have become as hospitals’ capacity have been impacted by Covid and more parents have been forced to take their child’s care into their own hands.
This has become especially important in the pandemic’s second year, as hospitals have seen more cases of RSV—a respiratory virus that heavily impacts infants—than ever before. Parents can avoid expensive hospital stays with the help of MyKare’s tech.
“A lot of time if we have a device or something that is more like hospital-grade that can be safe to use at home, that will cut out a lot of unnecessary emergency visits or hospitalizations,” Tsang said. “Just in the case of this nasal congestion, if the parents have the device at home, they can actually prevent the respiratory distress and get it under control.”
Although MyKare has received a previous grant from NC IDEA (a $10K MICRO grant in 2020) and additional funding from WakeMed hospitals, where Tsang currently works, the mostly family-run company is looking for more funding. The cash would help MyKare evolve from building prototypes, which were successfully made by Morrrisville’s Robling Medical, into full-fledged production.
The company looks to raise $300K in the coming months, and then manufacture product for sale within 6-9 months after securing funding.
Tsang said this money would be used for product production, finishing FDA registration and a soft launch with partner WakeMed, where 9,000 babies are born and 12,000 cases of RSV are treated in a single year.
“Just looking at the statistics at one local hospital, you can imagine how many people will need it just in the area,” Tsang said. “Then we’ll hopefully expand to this state, to other states, and to other hospitals, too.”
NC IDEA will announce the winners of its SEED grants in mid-November.