Inventors to show their stuff at library

Lexington's Connie Ritchey has the experience of a registered nurse and the spirit of an inventor.

Combining the two, she has invented a device that might make life a little less tedious for many medical patients who must wear IVs for extended periods.

It's the "Armbrella," essentially a waterproof plastic sleeve that such patients can wear on their arms to keep their IVs dry and clean when they take a shower.

Ritchey will be among inventors showing off their creations Tuesday night at the fourth annual Central Kentucky Inventors Conference. The event — built around the theme "The Business of Inventing" — will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Lexington Public Library on Main Street. The conference is sponsored by the Central Kentucky Inventors Council and is free and open the public.

Ritchey, a nurse at the VA Medical Center on Cooper Drive, is like most inventors: She saw a need and hit on a new way to fill it.

For years, she has assisted patients who are on long-term antibiotics or chemotherapy, which can require them to have IVs in place for days or weeks at a time. Those IVs must be kept dry and clean at all times.

"When a patient needed to take a shower, about all we could do as nurses was improvise and wrap the person's arm in a plastic bag and tape it in place and keep the IV site dry," Ritchey explained. "But sometimes the plastic bag and tape just didn't work well or it would leak."

Then, Ritchey got a "sudden inspiration" for a better way. Her idea: Create a disposable plastic sleeve with elastic at each end that would slip over the patient's arm and protect the IV site.

Thus was born the Armbrella.

"I think there's a real need for it, because I hear patients saying all the time how much of a struggle it is to take a shower while wearing an IV," she said.

Ritchey and two investor-partners have made some samples of the Armbrella, which soon will undergo product testing on the West Coast. She also has applied for a patent, which is pending. If the tests go well, actual production and marketing would be the next step.

Ritchey sees hospitals and home-health agencies, as well as individual patients, as her most likely customers.

Mark Miller, a spokesman for the Central Kentucky Inventors Council, said Tuesday night's convention is designed to help others follow in Ritchey's footsteps to develop and market their own inventions.

In addition to being able to see other people's creations, inventors and potential inventors will be able to network and exchange ideas and inspiration. One part of the conference will be "The Elevator Pitch," in which a few selected inventors will have an opportunity to quickly "pitch" their inventions to a panel of business and venture capital experts who will grade them on their presentations.

Four championship winners from the Kentucky Student Technology Leadership Program will be on hand to exhibit their winning projects. Experienced inventors also will offer their advice to help rookies move from the idea stage to the money-making stage.