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Baby, you got it made in the shade with phototherapy glasses

Suleman octuplets' eyewear all the rage with new moms

Posted: February 11, 2009 1:03 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A baby doll modeling the NeoShades and the NeoBar from the local NeoTech Products, Inc. The company specializes in inventing products for babies and children who need intensive care. NeoTech started in the mid-'80s and moved to the Santa Clarita Valley four years ago.

All it took was a quick shot of two Suleman octuplets wearing phototherapy glasses and Neotech Products of Valencia was a neonatal rage.

"This has really become an iconic product for us," said Dr. Arnold Heyman, Neotech medical director. "They're simple to use but they're so complex to develop."

The premature octuplets were pictured during an NBC TV interview with their mother, Nadya Suleman.

Weeks after the octuplet birth, scrutiny and wonder continue to buzz over the unemployed, divorced single Whittier mother and the fertility doctor who helped her give birth 14 times.

Despite controversy surrounding the issue, the owners and employees at Neotech were excited to see one of their products protecting the eight neonates.

Neotech is dedicated to manufacturing neonatal, pediatric and respiratory products for babies and the nurses who care for them. Their specialty is in creating skin-friendly products that are ideal for neonates, according to the company's Web site.

Babies wear the shades when they are undergoing light therapy for jaundice, a common occurrence in premature babies, according to information Neotech provided.

The company designed, manufactured and patented the stylish NeoShades 10 years ago, but since the two of the octuplets wore the shades in a neonatal intensive care unit, the company has received phone calls from all over the country.

Covering baby's eyes during phototherapy is not a new medical practice, but a Neotech employee had the idea to improve upon the eye-coverings to make them more appealing and softer on the baby's skin.

"They're less invasive, they function well and they're aesthetically pleasing," said Karin Storlien, Neotech's marketing manager. "We really want families to feel cared for ... anything we can do to improve the situation."

The company relocated from Chatsworth to Fremont Court in Valencia about four years ago.

Heyman, a retired urologist from Los Angeles, and Neotech President Tom Thornbury, who's experienced in the medical products industry, teamed up about 20 years ago.

"We started getting ideas and migrated to neonatal, realizing it was an underserved market," Thornbury, of Los Angeles, said. "A big company couldn't afford to make these products because it's a small market.

It takes a small company to focus and commit to this market."

Parent feedback
Thornbury said they hear constant feedback from parents who appreciate their products - they started with one and have produced about 20 products.

One of their other products is the NeoBar which keeps the endotracheal tube stabilized with skin-sensitive adhesive tabs, without invasive tape strapped across the baby's face that could irritate the skin, Storlien said.

"We had a family say ‘thank you for developing this product because we were able to see our baby's face,'" Storlien said.

The company has a team of clinical consultants throughout the country who show practitioners how to use the products, Storlien said.

One of those clinical educators is Jill Adams, of Valencia. Adams is one of 20 employees at the company, most of whom live locally.

"It's an area of medicine that, while there's sadness, there's a glimmer of hope," Adams said. "This (job) has been rewarding in that regard."

The company continues to develop new products every year, getting its ideas from nurses, doctors, practitioners or employees.

Storlien, Thornbury and Heyman said business is growing despite a slow economy.

Intensive care
Seeing their baby in the intensive care unit can be scary for parents, said Storlien, of Valencia.

That is a fear they try to alleviate with their products like the NeoShades.

"We didn't realize the impact it would have on the parents, they're looking at their babies through the glass and they don't want to see them wired all those gadgets, this way (with the NeoShades) they say ... ‘Oh how cute,'" Thornbury said.

The hospital where the octuplets received care was a client of Neotech's for years. Their products are worn by babies as close as Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills and as far away as Africa.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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