Bonney Magambo is a nurse, a mother, and a determined entrepreneur. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with kidney failure, which has led her to start her own business.
With her start-up HémoFAB and her project FAV Protector, she's taking on a little-known subject that affects millions of people around the world: the care of arteriovenous fistulas and the prevention of unnecessary medical procedures for patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment.
What does that mean exactly? Arteriovenous fistulas are a connection between an artery and a vein. People who have late-stage kidney failure often have an arteriovenous fistula surgically created in the arm or forearm to facilitate dialysis. It's an essential element to the treatment of people who need hemodialysis but it's also very fragile. Bonney has experienced this first-hand.
" The idea came to me when I had an accident on my fistula ending up with a significant hemorrhage and I realized how important it was to protect my fistula", she explains in her project description for a Handicap International entrepreneurship contest she participated in. “In two years, I've had about 30 medical interventions to repair damage incurred."
That's why Bonney came up with a simple and ingenious way to try to avoid complications related to her FAV: to protect it with an arm band. It first started with a simple homemade design that provided a layer of protection, but she aspires to build a fully connected arm band that not only shields the fistula from harm but also gives patient and doctor information about the health of the fistula to anticipate further care.
When she contacted medical practitioners with her idea, they couldn't believe no one had thought about it before. In France, renal failure affects 3 million people. Eight-two thousand are undergoing treatment, i.e., dialysis and transplantation. In France, there are forty-eight thousand patients undergoing hemodialysis. They too had the same difficulties, but they protected their AVF in other ways, for example by using bandages, or other sleeves that exist today but that are not meant for this type of use".
Not only is her idea a long-awaited solution for the many patients going through hemodialysis treatment, but it could serve patients suffering from other medical conditions as well. “We have been contacted by diabetics who needed to protect their pump with this cuff.”
From her observations as a patient, Bonney launched a full-fledged entrepreneurial project. She is working with engineers and designers to build FAV Protector, her revolutionary connected protective armband. “The project evolved. I started with the classic cuff for external complications (cuts, scratches, etc.), but I thought I didn't have the complete solution because there are also some internal complications. So, I designed a connected cuff for continuous monitoring using a sensor, which will see if clots are forming, if there is a narrowing, and report it to a doctor via an online platform. The doctor will then be able to bring the patient in for a surgical procedure.”
But that's not all. She has also built a community of patients that support each other as they undergo these onerous treatments. Aside from being a welcome support system for her as a refugee going through illness far away from home, they are also her sounding board, beta testers, and prospective clients!
To develop her business, she's benefited from the support of different entrepreneurship programs for refugees, like the SINGA incubator and now FAIRE. They've helped her grow her network of collaborators to help push her idea further into the MedTech field. She is currently looking for a manufacturer that will allow her to build a complete prototype in France. "The idea is to work with French manufacturers. We'll send the first cuffs to the patients who ordered them first and then they'll send us feedback. This possibility of being able to readjust the product every time requires that we stay close to the patients."
Bonney's journey is just beginning, but she already has ideas for other products she could manufacture for dialysis patients. Though she has faced many obstacles to get where she is, she is not letting them stop her. With this innovative and ambitious project, she has found her path.
"You have to believe in yourself, it's possible to be an entrepreneur. You must be bold, believe in your ability to go all the way with your project. You have to choose something that you like that you don't need to encourage yourself to do."