LEXINGTON -- Just three weeks before the coronavirus outbreak hit Seattle, Victoria Langer was there marketing a product designed to help patients experiencing Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, (ARDS).

Now, demand for that specialty medical product has skyrocketed across the country. Hospitals are requesting Langer’s manual prone positioning package to help reduce the risk of pressure wounds for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

"It's fulfilling -- helping doctors, helping nurses, the fact that I can keep my employees working,” said Langer, president of Global Medical Foam, Inc. “That we can pay it forward and help other people, I think that's the whole bottom line of life."

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Since founding her company 26 years ago, Langer has produced a full line of products aimed at increasing patient comfort while preventing pressure wounds and bed sores. The company currently holds three patents and has patent pending products, including the prone positioning package.

Seattle hospitals have ordered the product in bulk in the wake of COVID-19, sometimes offering to pay overnight shipping costs. Other sets have gone to hospitals in New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Arizona, an army base in Hawaii and a medical center in Cleveland. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs recently began using the items in their hospitals.

The multi-piece set consists of dense memory foam wedges designed to help patients who are laying face down in a hospital bed. This position is known in the medical field as “prone.”

“Many hospitals are writing proning into their protocol,” Langer said. “The minute somebody has COVID-19 and they have to go on life support, they prone right away.”

Patients with ARDS are often placed in the prone position because it makes it easier to breathe and improves oxygenation.

Kathleen Vollman, a critical care Clinical Nurse Specialist with 40 years of experience, called proning a “game changer” for COVID-19 patients. 

“Studies have shown that you can get more oxygenation if you are face down,” Vollman said. “When a patient is proned, the pressures change in the chest, allowing lung sacs to open up.”

While proning may be beneficial, it can also be uncomfortable. If done improperly, it can even cause more problems.

According to Vollman, patients may be prone for periods between 12 and 16 hours if they are on a ventilator, and up to six hours if they are awake and not intubated. Some hospitals have special proning beds, but they are expensive and hard to come by.

“In all the studies that have been published, one of the major complications of the proning position is pressure injuries,” she said. “Therefore, how you prone and how you manage the patient in the prone position is critical.”

The proning packages aren’t the only product that Global Med Foam is sending to hospitals on the frontlines. The company is also shipping out thousands of foam strips every day for reusable and disposable face shields.

Langer said keeping up with the demand has been a team effort.

“Our manufacturing plants that we subcontract to, those guys just jumped in with both feet and got us on board and worked two shifts,” she said. 

Her office staff even stepped in to help assemble and package the product.

“My whole team has come together. Accounts payable, receivable, everybody has pitched in to get these things out the door,” she said. “They have worked overtime, they have worked weekends.”

Langer never intended to become a businesswoman. Before Global Medical Foam, she was working in the medical field and studying to become a nurse. Langer created her first foam products for ailing family members. Hospital personnel were so impressed they asked her to make more.

“I remember sewing covers in my craft room in my basement. So to be here, in the forefront of all of this, in a pandemic, it's almost like you can't wrap your arms around it,” she said.  "It's very fulfilling, from a human standpoint, knowing that we are helping to bring a product to the forefront that doctors are needing to help patients stay alive.

"God has blessed me in many, many ways and I'm truly grateful and humbled."