A family outing gone wrong 16 years ago. Sitting in the back of the car, Felicia Jackson’s 2-year-old son began choking, couldn’t breathe and lost consciousness. In the panic of the moment — as any mother would feel seeing her child in danger — Jackson was at a loss of what to do. Even though she was a heavily trained nurse and CPR certified, the fear of losing her own son left her in a blank state of mind, terrified of what was happening.
“I was in shock,” Jackson recalls. “I forgot everything I’d been taught, and I just froze.”
Luckily her husband, also CPR certified, was there and able to jump into action before it was too late.
The reality of it is that this loss of awareness of what to do in a given moment of need is extremely common when it comes to life or death situations. That situational stress is what led Jackson to realize that there was a need to improve the chances of individuals who required cardiopulmonary resuscitation with only the help of civilian responders. She then conceived the idea of the CPR Wrap.
Jackson began to develop the design of the wrap, taking her time to pay attention to the practical details. Using her own experience and drawing from others’ input, she’s been able to create the perfect tool for the four out of five cardiac arrests that happen out of the hospital.
The disposable device is a user friendly piece of layover equipment that can be stored with any first aid kit. It comes with clear and concise directions for each of the four American Heart Association recommended steps that a responder of any level can understand and follow under any amount of stress, as well as a one-way mouth guard for breathing oxygen into the victim. The visual guides even prompt hand placement for compression techniques.
“I don’t want any mother to ever have to feel as helpless as I did on that day,” Jackson says. “The product can be used by even untrained individuals.”
Jackson’s product has already been turning heads in the health care community. The simple design and accessibility to all levels of knowledge about CPR techniques makes it a great training tool, reminder and emergency application.
“I just remember thinking, ‘How has no one thought of this?’” Marcy Thobaben recalls.
Thobaben is a licenced practical nurse, urban EMT and president/CEO of Bluegrass Readiness. She’s also one of Jackson’s health care product consultants and has been working with her for the past two years.
“I don’t work officially for her,” Thobaben explains. “But I would do anything to help her. I believe in her mission and the product 100 percent.”
Thobaben almost lost her brother to a cardiac arrest collapse due to dehydration and has since been a major advocate for CPR and certification regulations. When she first found the wrap, it was via LinkedIn, and she reached out to Jackson to give some pointers in the design aspects. They met in a Cracker Barrel and compared notes to adjust the design.
“I’ve been training individuals in CPR for 30 years, and I knew what the American Heart Association would want to see from a product like that,” Thobaben says. “The product is just so genius, I knew she was going places with it.”
The product is useful not only because of the ease of training it allows, but because of the reminder it serves as for those who have been certified at some point but haven’t kept up with the practice of staying certified, or, like Jackson, may need a reminder of specific steps in the heat of the moment.
“There’s a three-month retention rate for information learned at any training session,” Thobaben says. “After that, you’re lucky to remember any of the guidelines if you aren’t being prompted.”
What’s more is that the statistics regarding the availability of emergency services with 9-1-1 is surprisingly not in favor of those experiencing cardiac arrest.
“An ambulance won’t get there as quickly as people think,” Thobaben says. “And most times, the emergency operator isn’t able to give CPR directions over the phone. They’ll just try to remind you to stay calm.”
Even though the product’s innovation is globally recognized now by many trainers and companies, Jackson speaks of the difficulties that her company faced in the start-up period. Pointing to the fact that she is an African American woman standing as the inventor and CEO of the company, there were times she faced major obstacles that she hadn’t expected.
“People tried to convince me it would be easier to sell the product if I wasn’t the face of my own company,” Jackson recalls. “That hurt a lot. When I looked out at the inventors in the world, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me, but this was my product, and I had set my mind to it.”
Pointing to her daughters and her son as her motivation, in order to leave a better role model for them than she had, she stuck with it. Even turning down buyout opportunities for quick payouts, Jackson took the long route to success — and it wasn’t easy.
“I have some great advisors, and that family of support is what got me through it all,” Jackson says. “I work in medicine, and I realized I had to do what I preached to my patients. If you fall, you just gotta get back up. It’s what you do in those moments that count the most.”
Her persistence paid off, and it continues to do so. Now, after 2018 brought many big name companies interested in purchasing CPR Wraps from Jackson, and since her product made headway in other countries and continents, it’s become a source of confidence in her own abilities as an inventor. She was even chosen for the Techstars Austin Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Program, of which only one percent of companies that apply are accepted.
She is also designing similar products that she hopes will continue to better the chances of people in their moments of need. Continuously modifying and updating the wrap itself, she still allows herself to chase her passion of inventing.
Now, Jackson is reminded of that day she almost lost one of the most important people in her life as her son walks across the stage for graduation from high school. It could have been the worst day of her life, but instead, Jackson has created a life-saving product to help others.
It used to be about taking care of my own family,” Jackson says. “But now, I feel like the whole world is my family. It’s my responsibility to give back to the community as best I can.”