Alabama man eases hand tremors with Canadian invention

In 2008, when Dr. Alan Hackel retired from his role as dean of continuing education at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama, he spent much of his time doing more of what he loves best—being with his wife, Joan, and his standard poodle, volunteering on the board of directors of Service Dogs Alabama and enjoying favourite meals like fresh, locally caught catfish. But, about three years ago, he began experiencing Essential Tremor, like that which had affected his father.

The tremors in his right hand made it especially challenging for him to eat. Using cutlery became difficult. “The tremors only became a serious issue then. I had a hard time keeping food on my fork.”

He tried several prescription medications to help ease the tremors, but with little success. They either didn’t work or had side effects that negated their benefits. One day while surfing the Internet, his wife came across something interesting—a glove designed to stabilize the wrist joint and forearm to reduce hand tremors.

It was created by Steadiwear, a Canadian startup co-founded by Mark Elias and Emile Maamary. When Elias saw his grandmother spilling coffee on herself because of her hand tremors, he made it his personal mission to come up with a solution. He used his experience in vibration mechanics to develop a device to help those living with tremors—an estimated 10 million North Americans. Supported by AGE-WELL and the University of Toronto, Elias and Maamary started Steadiwear in 2015 and launched it with the introduction of a lightweight, battery-free tremor-dampening glove.

Dr. Hackel ordered a Steadi-Two, the second generation of the glove, in hopes that it could help him eat. “It has been a game changer,” he says. “Though I was managing with my left hand, when the Steadi-Two came along, it really made a big difference.” Quickly, he became a vocal proponent of the device. When he’s out at a restaurant, he’s happy to talk to anyone who wonders about what he’s wearing on his hand.

He also approaches strangers who he sees struggling with tremors to share his positive experience with his special glove and encourage them to look into it themselves. He recalls seeing a woman on the golf course who had severe tremors. He told her about his new glove. “She was just incredulous,” he says. “She had no idea there was something she could do to help with this condition.”

In the coming months, Dr. Hackel is keen to try the newest version, Steadi-Three. Steadiwear reached out to him after he wrote to tell them about the trouble he had using a button on the side of the glove. The developers listened and the glove’s latest prototype does not have it. “It will be interesting to see what they’ve come up with,” he says.

Listening carefully to customer feedback is something Steadiwear has done since the very beginning. Each version of the glove design is tested with the help of people with Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s.

In the meantime, Dr. Hackel is happy to see that his hand no longer shakes when he wears his glove. “It has made a huge difference. I can put food on a fork or a spoon and it doesn’t fall off. It just feels normal now. It has made life easier.”