A remarkable optimist’s invention for CF patients
Published Tuesday, October 2, 2012 6:20PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 2, 2012 8:10PM EDT
Marten DeVlieger is an overachiever.
The 31-year-old has run the Boston Marathon, flown helicopters professionally and is vice president of his town's Chamber of Commerce.
And Marten is a hands-on dad to his two young children: a two-year-old son and a seven-month-old baby girl.
Marten also has cystic fibrosis. He was diagnosed when he was a baby. When I met him in Taber, Alta., at his home (which he built himself!), he didn't sugar coat the challenge of living with CF.
"Every minute of the day consists of staying alive, dealing with my medication. You cannot stop for one minute or one day or you will die," he told me.
Marten takes up to 100 pills a day along with his inhaler medication. But his positive attitude (an over-used expression, I know but Marten is the definition of positive attitude) is such that he wants to help others with CF.
Years ago, Marten designed a contraption called the ChestMaster. It fits over the body like a vest, and mimics manual physiotherapy, helping the user loosen and cough up mucus.
The ChestMaster is also portable, so that it doesn't have to be plugged into an outlet. The idea is to give CF sufferers freedom, allowing them to travel or go on a hike -- all the activities Marten enjoys.
Now a Victoria, B.C., medical device company is taking Marten's idea and running with it. Starfish Medical is developing Marten's ChestMaster, and hopes to see it in production in about a year and a half.
The device still needs more fine-tuning and testing, but Starfish is excited about the ChestMaster and what it could mean for people living with cystic fibrosis.
One of the best parts of my job is meeting extraordinary people, and Marten certainly is that. He keeps active, lifting weights and running five kilometres every day. Self-pity has no place in his life.
"Don't say poor me," he told me. "Everybody has a problem in their life, so just carry on like normal and make the best of your situation and you'll feel a lot better naturally.”
Marten knows the life expectancy of someone with CF is about 41 years old. He says that since he and his wife Janine had children, mortality is something he thinks about "every five minutes of the day." So he lives his life to the fullest, refusing to waste an hour.
It was a pleasure spending an afternoon with Marten and his family.