MyMedic, Born Out of Tragedy
By Brian E. Clark
MyMedic, the Salt Lake City based maker of first-aid kits, tourniquets and other medical supplies, was born of tragedy.
But it inspired family members of the late Ken Udy, who was killed eight years ago in a New Mexico vehicle accident, to create a company that can save lives.
“Their loss brought a lot of genuine purpose because his death hit home so hard,” said David Barlow, a former emergency medical technician who is the CEO of MyMedic. “They want people to be prepared so they can potentially avoid what they went through.”
Udy, who was in his 50s, was alone when he was killed in a collision with a truck.
Ironically, his wife and a daughter are both nurses. Though there were bystanders on the scene, the lack of first aid supplies, proper training and a long wait for emergency medical services most likely led to an unnecessary death, Barlow said.
“It took about 25 minutes for the ambulance to reach the scene and by that time he had pretty much bled out because no one knew how to apply a tourniquet,” he said. “He died shortly after the emergency medical service arrived.”
How long it takes for EMTs to get on the scene depends on whether you are in a rural or urban area, Barlow said.
In a bigger city, the average is seven to 12 minutes, while it could be more than 30 minutes out in the country.
“But if a person has a strong flow (of blood), they can bleed out in three to four minutes,” he said. “The average person has about five liters and if they lose more than two liters, they are going to be in real trouble.”
Initially, Udy’s wife and four children used the settlement money from a lawsuit stemming from the accident to promote safety and first aid.
“They did it to honor Ken and be good civic members,” Barlow said. “MyMedic was created as a passive investment with another company that was doing trade shows.”
By 2015, the Udys had bought out their partner and moved the company to Utah.
“The products we make are aimed at anyone who is willing to take the step to be prepared,” Barlow said. “Our audience is widely varied from people who want to have a kit in the car, to mountain bikers to backcountry skiers to first responders.
“Our products are for who are outdoors a lot and realize they will be remote, though we also have a large amount of police, fire fighters, nurses and doctors who appreciate our products because they are compact, comprehensive and are filled with things they use everyday.”
Barlow said a big part of MyMedic’s mission is to provide to not only curated, professional-level products, but to move lay people from entry level gauze and bandaids kits to to having significant products at their fingertips.
“It really goes along with the mindset of the country with the ‘Stop The Bleed’ program,” which was launched by the American College of Surgeons in 2017.
“Sadly, we have have a huge lack of knowledge,” he said. “Too many people out there have a sense of security because they bought a $20 drug store kit of first aid supplies that is mostly bandaids and a little gauze. That’s not enough.”
“We want to make our life-saving products ubiquitous, getting them in every classroom and every car and building and then teach people how to use them. A tourniquet is the best way to save a life if someone is going to bleed out.”
With the increased interest in outdoor activities and selfceare, in part because of the pandemic, Barlow said MyMedic’s business boomed last year with sales rising nearly 500 percent.
“I think covid was a national wakeup call,” he said. “Not only did people not have enough toilet paper, but they realized they didn’t know much about first aid or have the proper supplies.
“Our company does well when things are going good in the world and we do great when things go wrong and people say ‘I should do something more than just think about it.’”
Barlow said lay people need to learn how to use MyMedic’s products. So the company has videos on its website. They should also take first aid courses, he added.
“People get intimidated and say they can’t use a tourniquet because they never seen or done one,” he said. “But with five minutes of training, you’ll know enough to potentially save a life. We want to bridge that knowledge gap as well as sell our products.”
Barlow said the MyMedic FAK, for First Aid Kit, is the company’s best seller. The Basic model has more than 100 first aid and trauma supplies and sells for $120. The Pro model costs $240 and includes a Rapid Application Tourniquet.
The company also sells smaller kits that are specifically aimed at cyclists, hikers, pet owners, boaters and even a hefty construction worker model that retails for $375.
Another popular item – created at the request of REI – is a a kit based on the National Park Service’s “Ten Essentials” recommendation for adventuring in the outdoors.
These essentials are packed in a waterproof bag that can carry water or be turned into a flotation device and has everything from shelter to food, water, a light, a heat source and more.
He said MyMedic recently released something called Super Skin, an alternative to the Moleskin product for treating blisters – which Barlow said comes off too easily.
“We worked for two years on getting the right fabric and adhesive,” he said. “Our employees started using it for finger cuts in warehouse and found it was more comfortable than a Bandaid because it had four-way stretch. so when put it on your finger or elbow and flex it won’t constrict.”
Barlow, who worked as an EMT at the Olympics in Japan and Salt Lake City, said working for MyMedic is especially satisfying, particularly when the company gets letters and emails from people who have successfully used their products to save lives.
“I have to be whole hearted with what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything more meaningful than this,” he said.
“Our paydays are when we get those letters that say I was able to use your kit in an accident. One guy, who builds his own muzzle loaders and goes to mountain man conventions, was able to save his son by applying one or our tourniquets after the boy had accidentally shot himself in the leg. Those kinds of stories are our real payday.”
Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. He also writes a weekly travel column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.