The Precision Fabrics Group (PFG) says that, surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to treat irritating skin conditions or allergies isn’t a cream, ointment or pill. It comes instead in the form of therapeutic bedding.
PFG was created in 1988 via a leveraged buyout from Burlington and has evolved from a traditional textile manufacturer into an engineered materials business, focused on highly technical, high-quality woven and non-woven materials.
Company officials believe that one of the reasons they have been able to remain viable in leaner economic times is because PFG has proven to be an innovative leader in textile science for healthcare, industrial and aerospace engineered fabrics.
PFG is now manufacturing the first and only patented FDA-cleared therapeutic bedding– DermaTherapy bed linens. Therapeutic bedding addresses the microclimate surrounding a patient. Instead of sheets and pads protecting the mattress, they protect the patient.
On February 20, PFG hosted Emily McGrail, the 2011 Ms. Wheelchair Virginia titleholder, for a tour of the facilities. The tour was facilitated by Annette Osborne, Senior Nurse Executive at PFG. She remarked that bed linens are the only patient care item that hasn’t changed in 70 years. That is no longer the case, thanks to PFG.
Osborne and McGrail met at a recent Abilities Expo in Washington, D.C. and struck up a friendship. That’s how McGrail came to be invited for the DermaTherapy tour.
“This tour is very impactful for McGrail as someone who is in a wheelchair. DermaTherapy has made a direct impact on her life and well-being every day,” said a PFG spokesperson. “McGrail came to PFG to recognize the manufacturer who has improved her quality of life.”
Osborne said there is a synergy between the work McGrail does for the non-profit Ms. Wheelchair Virginia organization and the opportunity to share the DermaTherapy message with people who can most benefit from the advanced technology. Osborne hopes to share the message of the impact of DermaTherapy bedding on wound healing and skin health at the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant later this year.
During the plant tour, McGrail and other guests were able to observe the work and detail that goes into making the DermaTherapy line.
McGrail, a native of Snowville, Va., was born with a condition that left the left side of her body weaker and smaller than the rest. By age 13, doctors discovered that she had a tumor resting on her cervical spine.
Due to the type of malignant tumor, McGrail should not have survived past early childhood. The tumor was removed, but because of its location, some had to be left behind. She received high doses of radiation therapy that inevitably saved her life but were very damaging to her spinal cord.
Nevertheless, she persevered, and continued to live a normal childhood. It was not until later in life that she began utilizing a power wheelchair as an elementary school teacher employed in Pulaski County.
Since retiring from teaching, McGrail has been actively involved with Ms. Wheelchair Virginia, obtaining the title in 2011. She is now the state coordinator.
She says the mission of the Ms. Wheelchair Virginia organization is “to educate, advocate, and raise awareness of the abilities and needs of people with disabilities in order to influence attitudinal, architectural, and social change for all Virginians”– with the public, businesses, and legislators.
McGrail said that often there are huge misconceptions and stereotypes about the disability community. She emphasizes that most disabled persons have jobs, pay taxes, often live independently, and lead regular lives with everyday interests.
McGrail’s spinal cord injury left her with poor circulation and skin problems, which makes using standard cotton bedding problematic. DermaTherapy bed linens have revolutionized the way she is able to sleep, making a good night’s rest obtainable.
DermaTherapy has FDA clearance as a Class I medical device for atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and pressure sores– the first and only bedding to achieve this distinction.
The linens are woven from a strong continuous-filament yarn that creates a consistently smooth, silk-like surface, virtually eliminating skin abrasiveness.
These therapeutic linens are cooler to the touch, reduce itching and irritation, produce less lint, are cleaner with stain resistance and a special soil-release finish, are hypoallergenic, and they wick moisture away from skin.
In October 2016, PFG was testing a synthetic silk sheet to determine if a new fabric engineered at its Vinton plant would wick away the moisture and heat of hot flashes and allow women going through menopause to sleep better. Then the sister of a corporate manager became ill with cancer and developed several bedsores.
He saw the ravage that they created and said, “We have to advance this technology.”
“That accelerated it from menopause and overall better, deeper sleep to an application in acute health care, long-term care and home health care,” said James Barry, business manager for the company’s health products.
PFG partnered with Standard Textile, a global supplier of hospital linens to test DermaTherapy. After 11 clinical trials at several hospitals showed incidences of pressure ulcers were reduced by 65 to 80 percent, the FDA certified DermaTherapy as a medical device.
What the company found during the trials is that so-called pressure ulcers aren’t caused by pressure at all, but occur when moisture, friction and the shear of bed linens interact with skin.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that hospital-acquired pressure ulcers add about $11 billion to the nation’s health care bill each year. CMS will not reimburse hospitals for treating bedsores since they are considered avoidable. These wounds generally occur on patients who are in frail health and can lead to rapid decline and death.
Vinton Plant Manager Mike Maust said he’s looking forward to hospitals and long-term care centers seeing the benefits of the fabric.
With the FDA approval, the company hopes that it can change the mindset of hospital and nursing home managers to view bed sheets as part of patients’ treatments rather than as housekeeping items. Plans are in the works to team up with burn centers in the development and use of DermaTherapy linens.
PFG is headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., and operates plants in Vinton and in Tennessee, employing over 600 associates.
The Vinton plant specializes in weaving some of the most technically challenging continuous-filament fabrics in the world. The Greensboro and Madison, Tenn. facilities produce a range of non-woven products.
“We’d love to employ 500 people right here in Vinton,” Maust said, adding that the company has about 28 acres to build upon and the capacity to operate 1,100 looms. As always, Maust praised his employees for the dedication to quality production and empathy for those they serve. One employee took time on his day off to stop by the plant to present a bouquet to McGrail, thanking her for supporting and promoting their products.
The 330,000-square-foot Vinton plant operates three shifts with 185 employees. It makes about 50 million square yards of engineered woven fabric each year, much of it for parachutes and the aerospace industry. On a product wall is a photo of the U.S. Airways flight dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson,” the subject of the movie “Sully.” The fabric for the inflatable chute was made in Vinton.
More information on PFG is available at www.precisionfabrics.com and on Ms. Wheelchair Virginia at www.mswheelchairva.com. Details on DermaTherapy products are available at www.dermatherapy.com.