SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield family is hoping their new invention will help fund their daughter’s chronic heart defect. Their three-year-old daughter has had as many heart surgeries as she’s had years of life.
The company has been in the making for eight months, and just recently hit Amazon. It’s called EllieTek, the product is the EllieMat, and it’s inspired by one strong little girl – named Ellie.
Kali Bowman and her husband Patrick learned their daughter could have a heart defect when she was 32 months pregnant.
“It’s a lot like grief. The first stage is denial. I mean just straight up denial,” she said. “You just don’t think that’s you, until all the sudden it is you.”
After the denial, came bills, lots of hospital bills.
“If her life is going to be painful, we wanted her to come to a happy environment and not having mom and dad fight about money or worry about losing the house,” Bowman said.
But the family consistently has to miss work for doctor’s appointments. Kali Bowman’s mom quite her job and moved in down the street to become Ellie’s full-time caregiver. They say the generosity of the Springfield community has also been unbelievable.
“People are so generous and so great and it’s gotten us through three years, but you know, we’re looking at a lifetime of this,” Bowman said.
So grandma came up with the EllieMat, a silicon placemat made to stay put and make meal time fun. It’s a long-term solution to help the Bowmans afford Ellie’s heart defect, when they can’t afford not to. While the microwave, oven and dishwasher durable mat is designed to be almost as strong as the Ellie who inspired it, it’s meant for all families.
“You’re trying to get them to eat real food after they’ve never had that sensation of taking a bottle or eating by mouth because of the feeding tube,” Bowman said. “This is kind of a cool fun way to make it seem like an activity and not something that, like, you know, sit there until you finish your dinner kind of thing.”
Ellie was diagnosed with 22Q 11.2 Deletion, the second most common chromosomal disorder after Downs Syndrome. Bowman says there’s very little awareness and advocacy for the disorder in the United States. Among many complications, Ellie is extremely susceptible to illness.
“We were just in the hospital two weeks ago for the flu, in June,” Bowman said.
She said the EllieMat also makes restaurant meals possible because her and her husband know she’s eating off a clean surface. But above all else, she has just one hope for Ellie.
“We want this to be something that she grows up being proud of,” she said. “I don’t ever want her to feel -she’s obviously different, but I don’t want that to be a stigma. I want that to be a positive in her life.”
Bowman said, with the help of a recent Facebook video gone viral, they reached their two week goal of selling 300 EllieMats in just eight days. Now they plan to expand and offer more colors.
To learn more about Ellie’s condition and her family’s invention, visit the company’s website.