Felicia Jackson, her husband and three small children were riding in the car one day in 2002 when she glanced into the back seat from the rearview mirror. Jackson’s 2-year-old son Markus was choking on a piece of candy his older sister had given him. After immediately pulling off on the shoulder of the highway, Jackson’s husband snatched Markus from his car seat and handed him to her.
“My son is slipping out of consciousness, eyes rolling to the back of his head. I’m crying, and the only thing I can do is shake him, never once thinking to do CPR,” recalls Jackson, 45, a trained physical therapy assistant with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field. “That mom brain took over. When I should’ve done something at that moment I just couldn’t react.”
Realizing his wife had panicked, Jackson’s husband took the boy in his arms and removed the candy from his throat. The couple rushed Markus to a nearby hospital and thankfully, the boy was fine.
Eight years later, a crisis with a niece triggered that awful memory and made Jackson think about what she might do to help others faced with similar emergencies. Then one night she dreamed about a simple medical product being used on a person in distress.
“I am a serial inventor,” she says. “When I have an idea I write it down and I sit on it. But I rarely do anything with it.” This time, at the insistence of a fellow book club member, she enrolled in a 10-week course at the LAUNCH Business Entrepreneurship Academy. In 2015 Jackson developed a prototype of CPR LifeWrap: a portable and lightweight sheet of high-density polyethylene in the shape of a human torso and face embossed with easy-to-follow written instructions on how to perform life-saving procedures. Jackson auditioned for the ABC network’s “Shark Tank” and although she didn’t make it on the show—the Sharks demand a track record before buying into an invention—the producers gave her a standing ovation and encouraged her not to give up.
After graduating from LAUNCH, Jackson participated in The Company Lab’s accelerator program, taking lunch breaks from her job at Memorial Hospital on Wednesdays to further develop her product. Challenged by CO.LAB executives to try her hand at pre-selling, she surpassed her goal of 100 units in one week and sold 300 solely by word of mouth.
Recognition for CPR LifeWrap began to build. Jackson was honored for the 2015 Best General Business idea during CO.LAB’s annual business pitch competition. And in 2016 she won an Emerging Business of the Year award from the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. Students at Girls’ Preparatory School pitched the CPR LifeWrap during that year’s “Mad, Bad and Dangerous” event. Distributors from as far away as Chile and India started inquiring about her product.
Late last year Jackson left her day job and opened an office at the Business Development Center where she markets CPR LifeWrap online and to outlets like the Erlanger Medical Center gift shop. It is also being used as a first aid tool in Hamilton County schools. A Milwaukee manufacturer handles the production of the CPR LifeWrap, with assembly outsourced to China.
The disposable product is essentially the same as the one in the drawing Jackson sketched the night she woke from her life-changing dream. Thin enough to fold and fit into a pocket or purse but durable enough to withstand manual compressions, the CPR LifeWrap features a one-way valve mouth barrier on both child and adult sizes (in the infant version, a semi-permeable mesh covers the nose and mouth). There are visual hand placements etched on the sanitary, medical-grade plastic wrap with additional graphics so users can align it atop the sternum, ribcage and diaphragm. The sequential text directions are printed in both English and Spanish. There’s also a reminder for the user to call 9-1-1 “because a lot of people forget,” Jackson notes. The invention is designed for customers with little or no CPR training.
Each year, more than 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrests without immediate access to hospital care. Only 10 percent survive… Jackson notes that eight out of 10 loved ones and bystanders don’t know what to do, or they freeze, forget their training, are afraid of hurting the victim, or wait too long to start the resuscitation process.
“One of my goals is to make that percentage—of people who don’t perform CPR to save a life—drastically lower,” says Jackson, who recently earned her certification as a CPR instructor from the American Heart Association. “My mission is to empower people, to get this product in as many hands as I possibly can. People are dying every day that could possibly be saved from something as simple as CPR.”
She now has a patent pending on a variation of CPR LifeWrap for cats and dogs. “I’m so excited,” she says of the impending pet product. “I cannot wait.”
Jackson’s eyes fill with tears when she talks about her son’s close call with death 15 years ago. “I was mad with myself for so long, just thinking my son could have died because I didn’t react. You don’t think about it until it happens to you.”
For more info visit CPRLifeWrap.com.
Story by Nancy Henderson | Photography by Chris Wolf