Suzanne Moloney, CEO and Founder of HidraMed Solutions, developed the skin disease Hidradenitis Suppurativa when she was 13 years old. Prior to that, she was a very active, sporty girl who loved running, swimming, rollerblading and rounders. She was a great runner and one of the fastest kids in school.
Suzanne didn’t know what it was back then. She just thought it was just a sore spot at first, but then it kept reoccurring and got worse each time. Majority of the time Suzanne tried ignoring it but constantly carried worry around with her. She would Google all her symptoms and tried numerous home remedies to try to ease some of the discomforts she was feeling.
For years, Suzanne never told anyone about her symptoms. When she was 17 it got so bad there was no ignoring it anymore. Suzanne told her Mum who brought her to her GP (doctor). The doctor prescribed Suzanne with antibiotics and that was her remedy for the following 4 years.
A key thing for Suzanne Moloney was to never let HS hold her back.
She finished school, went through college and trained as a chef. Although having regular flare-ups, she would take her antibiotics as prescribed and carry on.
When Suzanne reached 20 her GP sent her to A&E with what was thought to be cellulitis. She underwent emergency surgery that afternoon to remove the affected skin and was left with a painful open wound which required a lot of aftercare.
After this, Suzanne was referred to another surgeon who thought she may have Crohn’s Disease. After several tests, Crohn’s Disease was ruled out.
At the age of 23, after…
10 years of suffering,
and so much more, Suzanne was finally referred to another surgeon who was able to diagnose her with Hidradenitis Suppurativa. She was then referred to a dermatologist who treated her with intense antibiotics and steroid injections directly into the lesions. An unbelievably painful experience which unfortunately became Suzanne’s norm for the following years.
These treatments did not work and Suzanne’s HS worsened to a very active and debilitating stage 3 in multiple areas of her body. She underwent radical surgery to remove an extensive area of damaged skin. This left her incapacitated and bedbound, with large open wounds that required a twice-daily visit from a home care nurse. Suzanne was out of work for 8 weeks which took its toll. By the time she was healed, she was ready to get going. She thought now that she and the doctors knew what they were treating life would get easier and therefore planned a trip of a lifetime. But unfortunately, the treatments didn’t get any easier.
The trip of a lifetime
Suzanne left Ireland to travel around Asia, Australia and New Zealand. On her travels, she had numerous flare-ups. She quickly ran through her emergency antibiotics and sought more treatment where she was once again treated with the very painful steroid injections. Although she remembers the trip fondly, the HS did cause its difficulties. There were frequent delays due to having to find doctors and seeking treatments. When Suzanne finally returned to Ireland 2 years later, she had to go straight to the hospital for yet another surgery.
The return to Ireland
Since her return to Ireland, Suzanne has tried every combination of treatment available. From anti-biotics (including intravenous antibiotics that required a PICC line) to steroid injections, androgen blockers, insulin regulators, immunosuppressant therapy and twice-daily nurse visits for weeks on end. Oh and around 13 wide excision surgeries. Not to mention every diet and alternative therapy going. Suzanne did find that some treatments gave her temporary relief but nothing lasted too long.
Again, not letting HS hold her back, Suzanne accepted that it was part of her life and she learned to live with it. She opened her own bakery in Dublin and loved her work. But getting up for work every morning meant having to deal with bandaging up her lesions and wounds. After speaking to other HS patients online, she realised the problem was a lot bigger than her own frustration. People’s lives are really being negatively impacted by HS wound care and the lack of suitable dressings.
As you can imagine, the armpit and groin are hard areas to bandage. Adhesives irritate the already affected and sore skin and it is hard to get something that will stay in place in an area that moves so much. Leaks and lost dressings were inevitable. The bandaging process often caused Suzanne to be late or to have to leave occasions or work prematurely. As someone who was desperately trying to get on with life and not let HS hold her back, not having a suitable bandage hugely frustrated Suzanne. Why was she wasting so much time trying to get a bandage on that was never going to stay in place anyway?
The beginning of HidraWear
People living with HS tend to be very resourceful and improvise with their dressings all the time. Suzanne had done this and decided to approach a product designer with her idea to see if they could develop a dressing solution that could really help people with HS. Six years later, with her bakery long behind her, Suzanne has set up her own wound care management company, HidraMed Solutions and hopes to launch her first product, HidraWear AX for women, very soon.
As well as the dressings, HidraMed Solutions aims to become a reliable resource of information and support for people with HS. We know first hand how tough it can be to live with HS and we want to support the community as much as possible: driving research and innovation in the HS space, raising awareness among health care professionals and the public, and collaborating on different projects that will ultimately contribute to an improved quality of life for people living with HS.
Although busy revolutionizing the world of wound care, Suzanne Moloney continues to keep a close eye on the research being carried out to see if there are any new treatment options coming down the line and is hopeful for a change and someday a cure. Until then, the HidraMed Solutions team hopes that HidraWear will bring HS patients some comfort.