When a friend of Emily Levy’s wrote telling me about Emily and her efforts to start a business based on her own experience living with illness, I knew that this would be a good match. Emily is the CEO and CO-Founder of PICCPerfect and a student at Babson College. She has been suffering from Chronic Severe Lyme Disease since 2007, and like most Lyme patients, it took her years to get diagnosed. She wants every spoonie to still feel good, and get that extra confidence boost while going through treatment. Her mission is to turn #LymeintoLemonAid. Read on to learn about her compelling story, see if you get ideas for yourself, and consider how you might help her get launched.
Rosalind: Tell us a little about yourself, Emily. When did you become sick from living with chronic Lyme and how did it affect you?
Emily: I am not your average 21 year old. I have been suffering from severe Chronic Lyme Disease for the past eight years, but I was only diagnosed a year and a half ago. In the 7th grade, I had a funny rash on my leg, but the doctor said it was nothing to worry about. He did not recognize it as Lyme because it did not look like a classic bull’s eye rash. Over the years, I started to develop other symptoms such as severe joint pain, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, word confusion, muscle spasms in my face, lack of coordination, heart palpitations, and started to have difficulty with my memory. My friends called me a grandmother. I went to over 7 doctors, but I was consistently misdiagnosed. It took my mother and my younger brother to get Lyme Disease for us to piece together that I had Chronic Lyme. We finally went to a Lyme Literate Doctor in Rhode Island and I was officially diagnosed with Lyme. By this point, the Lyme had entered my bloodstream, brain, spinal cord, and joints because it went undiagnosed for so many years.
Rosalind: What changed in your life and in you from living with illness?
Emily: Until I got to college, we just thought that I had quirks, like being tired and clumsy. We thought that once I stopped playing field hockey that my joint pain would go away. However, even when I stopped playing sports in college, the entire right side of my body would go numb. After I got diagnosed, I was taking upwards of 50 pills per day and eventually we decided to put a PICC line in my arm. PICC lines are Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters, which are commonly used to treat Chronic Lyme. At that point, I could no longer be a “normal” college student because all of my medications were making me so sick. I would frequently have to leave class because of my nausea. Additionally, the PICC line made me self-conscious because even on my good days, the PICC line protruding from my arm made me look sick. I felt like I lost a lot of people that I thought were my friends once I got the PICC line in, but more importantly, I discovered who my real friends are.
Rosalind: What made you decide to start to his business?
Emily: I had tried other PICC line covers on the market, but I was dissatisfied because they did not look good and my line would get pulled because my line would get caught on the PICC line protectors. This always scared me because the PICC line is connected directly to your heart. As a student at Babson College studying entrepreneurship, I started thinking–I can solve this problem! From my own experiences and feedback from friends and family, I designed a PICC line cover that was both fashionable and functional–and this is how PICCPerfect came to be. I want to make a difference in the lives of chronic illness patients because I wish that I had a product like PICCPerfect when I was going through treatment. I am also working on a community blog called #LymeintoLemonAid so people can share their stories of living with a chronic illness, find support, and learn more about this cause.
Rosalind: What is running this business doing for you?
Emily: Running the business has finally given me a passion. I always knew that I wanted to have my own business, but I didn’t know what I could do to make a difference. PICCPerfect allows me to connect with other people who are going through the same things that I went through. In a way, it is helping me to heal. I am down to about 30 pills per day and this business is a great distraction from my illness. I cannot thank my team enough, as they inspire me to keep going. Since we have launched our Kickstarter campaign on April 1st, it has been amazing to see the outpouring of love from our family, friends, and supports!
Be sure to check out the website, PICCPerfect!