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HELPING OTHERS HELP THEMSELVES
Paralyzed chef develops utensils for the physically challenges
By BOBBIE WHITEHEAD
Special to the Daily Press
Robert “Bob” Bayton lsn’t someone who easily gives up.
The 45-year-old Portsmouth native met with one of the toughest challenges in 2001 when a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.
No longer able to walk, work and perform minor physical tasks such as feeding himself, the sous chef for Ford’s Colony Restaurant spent six months in intensive physical therapy at Kessler Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey.
When he returned home. He continued with physical therapy. But he kept thinking that there gad to be a better way to do things for himself. So he came up with an idea two years ago. He created eating utensils with an attachment that could fit on the forefinger and thumb, allowing people like himself with limited use of their hands the freedom and independence to feed themselves again.
“l can’t grasp anything, so that’s why l decided to create the silverware.” Bayton said. “‘There’s really nothing more demeaning than being fed in public. With the utensils I’ve created, l‘m able to take them on and off by myself and eat by myself. It’s giving me my independence back.”
While other products for the grlp impaired were available, Bayton said those proved either useless or cumbersome and required assistance to use. But Bayton‘s utensils. created with the help of a frlend. Joe Janes, utilize a yoke ring assembly that is attached to a regular set of stainless steel utensils — knife, fork and spoon — with a
“It slips on your thumb and forefinger”, Bayton said. “It‘s taken me two years to get where it is now. We just started manufacturing them in September and October.”
Bayton said when they had began creating the design, they wanted to make something that was functional. adjustable to fit different size hands and deformities, and they wanted to create a product that was aesthetically pleasing. They also dldn’t want to create something that would cause the persons fingers to drag through the food on the plate, he said.
“We didn’t want it to look like something for the handicapped. either.” Bayton sald.”lt took us awhile to find the right silverware that looked good and had the right dimensions.”
The cost of the utensils. which have a patent pending. is $65, and since Bayton began marketing them, he’s gained a following. He’s even had requests for children ‘s size utensils.
“So we’ll go into that. too.“ he said. “We plan to put the same assembly on large cooking utensils and call them Cooking With Dignity.”
He’s also working on a yoke ring design for combs, brushes, toothbrushes and a razor.
Since introducing his utensils. Bayton has talked with people at several medical centers and occupations]
therapy groups, he said. “We found out that people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease. Arthritis, spinal cord injuries and those who had had a stroke were interested in the utensils.” saidBayton. who attended the New York Metro Ability Expo recently. “At the Expo, one guy there with Lou Gehrig’s Disease bought one of our knives, and he said he hadn`t been able to cut a steak in four years. A nine- year old girl with cerebral palsy was laughing and excited because she said she’ll be able to eat normally. That gave us some self satisfaction. It provides us with good therapy seeing people benefit from something we’ve developed.”
Last year he took his utensils to the Amerlcan Occupational Therapy Association’s annual convention in Washington, D.C., where he said they were well received.
“We were doing it for marketing research? he said. “From there, we knew we had something that could help
Bayton continues physical therapy for strength training, and he wheels around four miles threc times a week at a local mall. Although Bayton no longer cooks, he instructs friends and family members, and at some point in the future, he said he’d like to teach culinary arts.
Friend Jaqueline Baker, Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Center lnc. Administrator, watched Bayton go through various changes with the design of the utensil assembly,
“I think they are marvelous, and they have continued to work on the utensils themselves. making the utensils
more user·friendly.” Batter said. “Bob is amazlng. When l see him. l go through an attitude adjustment. He’s the one who inspires us, not the other way around.”
Janes, who works al Advex Corp. in Hampton and assisted Bayton in developing the yoke assembly and finding the right materials to create the assembly. said he’s been friends with Bayton for 15 years.
“When it came time for Bob to start back with normal activities of life, he came up with this assembly idea” Janes said. “We talked about it, and came up with the gist of the thing.”
Janes then used contacts within the metal working industry to coma up with the materials. “It was a matter of picking the right alloy and using stainless steal for the attachment,” Jana said.
The two also had to meet regulations by the U.S. Flood and Drug Administration. Three considerations they had to make before they started were choosing the right type of metal for the attachment deciding how it would be formed and deciding how to attach the assembly.
“Even though I am going through a struggle, it makes it worth it that my struggle has helped me to create something that will help people with struggles for many years to come and that will became the norm in the industry,” Bayton said.