Page last updated at 23:07 GMT, Saturday, 8 August 2009 00:07 UK

'I just wanted to help my friend'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News,

Andy Speechley
Andy has already designed a car stacker

When part-time inventor Andy Speechley went to visit a sick friend he found him distressed and embarrassed.

Because of the severity of a stroke the friend was unable to wipe his bottom properly and worried that he smelt.

He did not like asking for, or getting, help.

So Andy, from Halifax, decided to do something practical and design a commode device to make his life easier.

No products

"At first I didn't decide to design one, but to buy one because I had dreamt in my head what he needed," he said.

"I had heard about how many far eastern countries routinely install low cost bidet seats onto a normal WC. They do a wash and drying job after toilet use as a cleaner and more hygienic alternative to using loo paper.

It was like railing against the Gods saying there must be something I can do for him
Andy Speechley

"It just seemed common sense to me, but when I couldn't find one anywhere having searched on the internet I thought I would have to make one.

"In a way it was a way of coming to terms with what had happened to my friend as well.

"It was like railing against the Gods saying there must be something I can do for him."

The dignity commode consists of a frame and toilet seat like a normal commode, but the major difference is it also incorporates a reservoir of clean water and an electric pump built securely into the unit to operate the washing and drying.

A tiny telescopic nozzle emerges from the seat and a warm jet of water washes the bottom of the person using it and then warm air dries them.

This year his design was presented with an NHS Innovation Award.

Julie Vickerman, an occupational therapist with PromoCon an arm of the charity Disabled Living, said the device could prove invaluable for a number of conditions.

Dignity Commode
The commode is portable

"During my clinical practice, I have identified that one of the areas of need that just hasn't been addressed, or developed, is that of having a piece of equipment that can facilitate or enable a person to wipe their own bottom in a dignified, safe and independent manner," she said.

"Many of the people that I work with have a long term health condition which restricts their physical movements, balance and co-ordination these include Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and arthritis.

"All of these conditions can affect a person's ability to sit on the toilet safely and then wipe themselves after passing urine or opening their bowels.

"Using the toilet is an everyday activity for everyone, an activity that the majority of us think nothing about ….. until it becomes difficult to carry out without needing someone else's help."

Filling a gap

Andy, a folk singer, said that right from the start there had been a good response as expert agreed there was a gap in the market.

So he decided to go ahead and build the device in his conservatory.

"I made contact with a manufacturer in Korea and obtained a sample of the seat and devised a commode chair and adaptor plate so that they would fit together in a safe useable unit.

"I created a simulated mains water pressured supply using a commercial vehicle windscreen washer tank and pump and battery combined with the necessary pressure switch and non return valves." he said.

"It worked fine.

"I was not really being that clever it was a knee jerk reaction to my friend's condition, but it turns out that it is going to be extremely valuable to elderly people who have very paper thin skin who can now be cleaned with warm water and air instead of having to dry them it is a much more gentle and sensitive approach."

Andy said he had been inundated with requests for the device.

But says his greatest pleasure has been from helping his friend, who he is not prepared to name to protect his dignity.

But he said the feedback from his friend had been good.

"He thinks its "very good" and he says "he definitely likes having it to take with him when he visits his sister".

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