Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Amy Baxter, is an Inventor, a Doctor, and a busy Mom. She knows first hand how hard it is to make time for her kids.

Amy Baxter, inventor of "Buzzy", a unique device to help kids by relieving the pain from taking shots, knows first hand what it is like trying to balance it all. Read her interview below to see how she does it, and what the buzz is about "Buzzy"!

The Baxter Family being Petroglyphs!

What has been your hardest struggle you have had when it comes to balancing your family life with your work life?

Well, I should give a little discussion of the best stuff, too, to balance it out. Best is when we get letters from nurses or kids telling us how much Buzzy helped them, or how great it is, or how a kid who hasn’t gone to the doctor for years due to fear of shots now isn’t afraid. It’s also awesome working with the team of my friends whose children are my kids’ friends, and all of us are helping Buzzy. We’re all moms, and all have really down to earth “let’s make this work” sensibilities, on top of a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We share some equanimity about if the business doesn’t take off, we’re still doing something meaningful. The worst is having a business at all; I’m still a practicing doctor with a busy research department, and so I don’t have nearly as much time for my family. I haven’t seen a movie with my husband for three years. If Buzzy doesn’t take off and help a lot of people, and allow me to have a bit more free time when the kids are teenagers, I’ve sacrificed a few years of time with my children that I can’t get back. The very hardest is working from home when I don’t have a sitter but expected one. I’m edgy about the goals for the day I need to get done, irritable because the kids want time with me and I’ve got STUFF TO DO, and sad because even when I try to be in the moment and enjoy the time with them I can’t put myself in that mental frame.

You are obviously very busy. How do you find time to balance your crazy schedule and spending time with your kids? Do you have a set “Mommy and Me Day”.

I've had varying degrees of success instituting Mommy and Me since I'm a practicing pediatric emergency doctor as well as entrepreneur/researcher, my schedule is hard to tame. Nonetheless, they've each gotten a few Mommy Dates. It's all about making the memories. I'm REALLY going to try to give each one a mommy date every week, so it will be roughly every third week that they get one. Max is 11, Miles 9, Jill 7.

What are your kids’ favorite Mommy and Me Activities?

Hmm. Short attention spans here: I just asked Jill, who said sitting under the stars watching meteors and swimming. We did those things together yesterday morning! The boys say “vacations”, but Max likes playing catch and Miles likes being read to. Max and Miles like going to rock concerts with us (e.g. Reel Big Fish, English Beat) and Jill likes gardening with me. Our most favorite family activity is letterboxing right now.

What inspired you to go from Pediatric Emergency doctor to Mom Entrepreneur?

Hmm, first let me stipulate I intend to keep practicing at least one day a week. With emergency, that one day is often a weekend. I’m not changing, just adding bigger and bigger Venn diagram circles encompassing my life!

I was doing needle pain research throughout my pregnancies, and when the kids got old enough to remember I brought creams or distraction toys to lessen the impact of the shots. Consequently, they were all really good shot takers until one nurse told my oldest out of nowhere “You are going to sit still or this is really going to hurt and we will have to hold you down.” He did great for the shots but then threw up afterwards and had been needlephobic ever since. I was so mad at the system and myself for not being able to protect him that I wanted to come up with something that worked instantly that parents could bring and use even if the healthcare system wasn’t interested.

How did you come up with the idea for Buzzy?

I knew that the body could stop pain naturally using something called the “gate theory”. If you bang your knee and rub it the pain stops, if you smash your finger and shake it, it helps the pain, or if you burn your finger and stick it under cold running water it quits hurting. I thought of cuffs of cold water, and all sorts of messy stuff. I got the idea in the car driving home from the hospital one day that vibration would work, but it wasn’t until my husband suggested frozen peas UNDER the vibration that it really made my kids’ hands numb to sharp pokes. Once I figured out that cold and vibration together near the sharp pain worked, I tried to get a pharmaceutical company interested in the idea for a few years, with no luck. Finally my husband and I agreed to sink the home equity line into the idea and start our own business. I also invented cards called “Flippits!” that you can pull out and distract during procedures. They have counting and finding tasks which are proven to decrease pain, and they can even fit in a slot on Buzzy’s tummy to block the view of the procedure if the sight of the sharp needle is the problem.

Throughout the design process of Buzzy4Shots did you ever get “cold feet” as one would say and stop and think, “Am I crazy for doing this?”

I’ve been ready to quit about 4 times, preceded by two or three days of shadowy lurking anxiety that is VERY atypical for me. When I am finally able to tack the dread to a specific business decision, it has resolved. There was a moment a few years ago where I visualized the trajectory of Buzzy clearly, and I haven’t worried so much since then. It helps that my husband and I both like working, so we aren’t hung up on a given retirement date. The fact that our 401K’s plummeted has actually relieved some stress, as we figure the money we put into the business instead of retirement was well-invested. The difficult decision is how to determine a “hard stop”, as in “Ok, this isn’t coming out as well as we thought and it’s sucking us dry. If we haven’t achieved X by X then we just quit and give the inventory away at a garage sale.” We’re getting some success now, so that discussion hasn’t been as necessary.

I’ve had many “big ideas” throughout my life. Some have worked others didn’t. Luckily my family has been supportive through most of them! How did your family support you in your “big idea”?

My husband relieved one of my anxious periods by saying, “If you didn’t do this you’d always be consumed by regret not knowing.” Another time he said, “OK, what did you project as a break even? Do you think there are that many children out there who will be helped by Buzzy? You can just stop then and have made the world a little better.” Or something to that effect. At any rate, he’s right. People always talk about the opportunity cost of one activity versus another, but no one talks about opportunity profit. Knowing how the idea panned out is an opportunity profit, and very satisfying.

How do your kids support you?

My kids support me by bragging to their friends about how they don’t mind getting shots, and by being interested in a variety of ways in the business. Over the past 5 years my children helped test, build, and prototype Buzzy until we had a device that worked. They smashed cell phones, helped me use electric tape and elastic bands, and have served as my first and best advisors. We started with a hand held massager and frozen peas, and finally got to a cute bee with frozen wings. At one point I contemplated having Buzzy be a shivering polar bear (Stephen Cold Bear!) but my son Miles stopped me. “Mom. He’s a bee. He’s always been a bee. All your files have “Buzzy” on them. He has to stay a bee.”

The kids alternately get frustrated and are proud of the Buzzy work, and they're REALLY proud when friends use it for their shots. One likes to help with design details, one likes to put together the distraction cards and inventory, one just likes to be on video and do demos on electronic equipment.

So tell me about Buzzy4Shots. How does it work?

Buzzy combines cold and vibration to block sharp pain transmission, just as putting a burned hand under water makes it better. The ice pack is either brought in a Cold-to-Go bag or sandwiched between two freezer packs (I used the ones from the Medela pump) or taken the freezer at the doctor’s if they have a Buzzy. When the nurse is ready for the shots, the freezer pack is slipped into an elastic band behind buzzy, then the vibrator is switched on and the ice and vibration are applied together “above” the site of the shot. When the shot is not on an arm or leg, put Buzzy between where the nerves come out of the spinal cord and where the shot is: lateral to the shot for the stomach, closer to the spine than the shot on a diagonal for the buttocks. Leave Buzzy on for at least 15 seconds, up to a minute or so for extra numbing. Buzzy stays ON during the poke to keep disrupting the nerve transmissions.

Thank you Amy for taking time to interview with To learn more about Buzzy visit her website

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