Every so often there’s reason to get excited about something new, especially if it promises to fix a frustrating problem. A few days ago on the Facebook site Outdoor Women’s Alliance, a good many of us were engaged in a lively debate about the condition known as Reynaud’s Syndrome or Reynaud’s Disease.
For those not familiar with this pernicious and sometimes dangerous disorder, I’ll make it simple. For those of us who live with it, any time we are subjected to certain temperatures of conditions (and they vary depending on the person and the severity) we lose circulation to our extremities. It can happen even in warmer climates if we’re subjected to wet and wind. For me, for example, symptoms begin at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Five times more women have this than men. For those of you long-suffering husbands, partners and boyfriends, you can relate. All your sweetie has to do is jump in bed with you, touch you ever so briefly with those cold hands and feet and you’re attached to the ceiling with your fingernails. We get COLD.
The reason that this is dangerous is that once the blood has left those extremities we can’t feel anything. I once slammed a car door on my hand in Chicago, and had no clue I’d done it until I started to walk away. Pulled up abruptly, I turned to see my yellow/white smashed fingers still tightly crunched in the driver’s door. No blood. That would come gushing out once I warmed my hands up in the bathroom sink. Not only did they turn purple with the return of circulation but so did my face while I was screaming. Welcome to the world of Reynaud’s.
That was when I sought medical advice.
There is no cure for Reynaud’s. We outdoor folks are advised to “avoid cold weather.” Really? Honestly? These are skiers and snowboarders and hikers and cyclists and horseback riders and campers, all of whom are not willing to live our lives huddled by a warm fire. All of us want to spend MORE time outside, not less. So we discussed everything that we’ve all tried from the obvious (mittens, but you can’t ride a horse with them) to putting cayenne pepper in your socks and gloves. Woe to those of us who have done the latter, forgotten about it and been stupid enough to rub our eyes.
So imagine my delight when one poster mentioned a new product, UThermic, which was guaranteed to fix the problem, and ensure that our outdoor pursuits would be once again, safe, and not only safe, but joyous.
I lept at the chance to try it and try it I did.
This morning, following all the instructions, I put a thin layer of UThermic on clean, perpetually cold feet, already turning yellow/white with the cold in my house. Zombie feet. Best use: a handy replacement for dry ice. I hoped this would work.
Unfortunately for me, a few minutes after I began to engage in exercise, which I do a lot, my feet began to feel as though a Balroc were blowing on them with all the fires of hell from his lungs.
I ripped off my shoes and ran for the bathroom sink. As instructed, I washed. Again, again, again, again, no relief. My feet turned a bright beet red. They were in agony.
Suddenly here I am doing the impossible, shoving my feet under ice cold water to cool them off.
At points in my athletic career, up on the top of a mountain with my frozen feet in agony, I might have thought this was a nice change of pace.
Um, no it isn’t. This hurt like hell. An hour later my feet were still in so much discomfort that by then I had written four messages to the UThermic website.
I have no allergies, no skin conditions. This was out of the blue.
I posted my report on OWA, to which one writer suggested yogurt and tequila. Yogurt to calm the fiery nerve endings, and tequila to dull the pain- apply liberally down the gullet. I now have big fat globs of cherry yogurt on my feet, which make me them look rather otherworldly. Something out of a hobgoblin movie. At least I’m laughing.
As I’m not a drinker, the tequila idea had to go by the wayside. Still, it had merit.
UThermic is a young company born in New Zealand with genuine and heartfelt commitments. Turns out that commitment is sincere. Later in the day when their Brisbane office opened, co-owner Ryan Tattle sent me several emails, full of concern and apologies, and asked if we could talk.
My incident, as it turns out, took up their entire day’s business. Ryan and I spoke today when they opened for business Brisbane time, about 4 pm Mountain Standard. Their team takes feedback like mine very seriously, and Tattle wanted to thank me for the head’s up as well as discuss what other methods I’ve found that work. None, sadly.
Tattle reported that their team of chemists are working on several versions of UThermic including some that may deliver a little less heat. Like Goldilocks, hoping to find that “just right” setting for folks like me who can’t take the heat. For the majority, however, UThermic appears to be the answer to “How can I play in the wild without pain from the cold?”
I’m giving my UThermic to another OWA member who wants to give it a try. She has promised to post her experiences as well.
In the meantime, I’m still searching. When I run out of options, there’s always the warm armpit. Although that method usually results in someone’s having to pull me out of the top branches of the nearest blue spruce.
Whether I find a UThermic product that ultimately delivers the warmth I need to fight off extreme cold during my adventures remains to be seen. However, the warm feeling I got from the swift response from the company founders, the immediate refund of my investment, and the dedication to spending time with an overheated customer on the phone was impressive. In these days of “too big to fail,” corporate layers that separate customers from those who produce products and laissez-faire attitudes about our health and welfare, it meant a great deal that someone cared about my sore dogs enough to call from Brisbane to make sure I was not only safe, but to hear any suggestions I might have. I’m sold on the company. And I am eager to give another product a try.
A great many American companies could learn something from Ryan Tattle and UThermic. All business is small business, because it’s between that product and us, that service and us. In a transparent world, fails can take on epic proportions. Good companies want to know about their failures. That’s what will make them great.