The "Hummingbird" Story
Sometimes, good neighbors can work miracles just by chatting over the back fence.
In 2010 Dr. Erik Hiester was a practicing primary care physician in Binghamton, NY. He was concerned by the number of patients in his practice who were victims of fibromyalgia.
Dr. Hiester became interested in the disease not just because of the number of fibromyalgia sufferers, but because they seemed so desperate for relief from their debilitating symptoms: widespread pain, sleeplessness, constant fatigue, and brain fog or confusion.
Desperate for Relief
The remedies available to these fibromyalgia patients, while helpful to some, were not helping them nearly enough.
One day, Dr. Hiester was chatting with a neighbor up the street who was a professor of Bio-Engineering at Binghamton University…
The “Second Heart” and Fibromyalgia Relief
Professor Kenneth J. McLeod had spent years thinking about the soleus muscles found in each calf of the human leg, and the critical role they play in human circulation. These soleus muscles pump blood and other fluids from the feet, ankles and lower legs back to the heart, brain and other vital organs. That is why some refer to the soleus muscle as the “calf muscle pump” or “second heart.”
A Vibrating Device
Professor McLeod was interested in helping victims of osteoporosis. He thought soleus muscle stimulation and the resulting improvements in circulation could help preserve bone density. To test his theory, he had developed a vibrating device to be stood upon like a bathroom scale.
During this chat, Dr. Hiester and Professor McLeod discussed the possible benefits of similar stimulation for sufferers of fibromyalgia. Why?…
The Fibromyalgia Connection
Because Dr. Hiester knew research had proven that many fibromyalgia sufferers have frequent episodes of low blood pressure and poor circulation.
The two scientists in Binghamton decided to work together with the Binghamton University School of Nursing on a groundbreaking research study to see if soleus stimulation could, in fact, help fibromyalgia victims.
Dr. Hiester was particularly interested in learning if improved soleus muscle function could increase blood circulation in the brain. He thought if this could be done, patients would likely sleep better, feel less fatigued, suffer less from confusion, and be better able to engage in normal daily activities. And the study would show — he was RIGHT!
The breakthrough fibromyalgia study
The research study began in 2011 and was finished in early 2014. Their breakthrough findings were published in the Journal of Biological Research for Nursing in September 2014.
The research provided evidence that vibrations applied to the feet of fibromyalgia sufferers produced significant relief of symptoms in many subjects—just as Dr. Erik Hiester had hoped.
From Clinical Studies to Real Relief
Dr. Hiester and Professor McLeod related the promising results of the research to David Lovenheim, a mutual acquaintance and seasoned entrepreneur. The three grew increasingly excited about bringing this new and simple therapy to the tens of millions of fibromyalgia victims worldwide.
A Prototype Becomes a Product
The devices used in the Binghamton study were research devices, not designed to be end-products. That changed quickly: Lovenheim enlisted his previous business partner, a well-known engineer and product developer, Dr. Jay Eastman. In addition to being a distant relative of photography inventor George Eastman, Dr. Eastman had more than 40 patents covering hardware devices and had successfully founded two prior companies.
An FDA Class 1 medical device to treat fibromyalgia symptoms
In 2012 Dr. Eastman dove into the work of developing a revolutionary device that would eventually earn several U.S and international patents—and be registered with the FDA as a Class 1 medical device: The “Hummingbird,” as it would later be named.
A Growing Team
Meanwhile, Lovenheim recruited 4 additional physicians and several technology entrepreneurs as seed investors in his new company, all the while adding key people to the management team. They worked throughout the summer researching fibromyalgia support groups and writing a detailed business plan.
Vital Motion was founded and formally launched in October 2012.
Founding Team Members
Making a Good Thing Better
Before bringing the Hummingbird device to market, Vital Motion conducted its own proprietary home-clinical study using prototype devices. Fibromyalgia sufferers were invited at no cost to use an advanced prototype of the Hummingbird device daily for 4 to 6 weeks, and to report their improvements weekly to Dr. Hiester.
These subjects were recruited with the help of fibromyalgia support group leaders throughout the United States. The people in the study agreed to wear a pedometer to count their steps daily during the entire duration of the study—to measure their levels of normal daily activity. The pedometer readings offered the first quantitative measurement of the beneficial effects of the Hummingbird:
75% OF SUBJECTS IN THE STUDY INCREASED THEIR ENERGY LEVELS & DAILY ACTIVITIES.
Even better: On average, their activity level improved by more than 56% compared with their activity levels prior to using the new device! 75% of subjects had over 70% greater activity!
The results of this home clinical study were used by Vital Motion to perfect the design and function of the final Hummingbird product.
The Hummingbird Takes Flight
After completion of its clinical study, Vital Motion’s management team planned for the launch of the Hummingbird product. By December 2016, the Hummingbird was ready for market.
Just a year later, its track record spoke for itself. Over 75% of those requesting the 60-day risk-free trial purchased and kept the Hummingbird for permanent daily use.
That’s just the kind of “miracle over the back fence” that Vital Motion’s founders had envisioned more than 5 years earlier.