Practical Improvements

11.9.2008 | 9:15 pm

I have not been keeping track of how often, each day, I ask Susan, “Is there anything I can do for you?” But I think it may be too often, because she answers, “No, I’m just as comfortable now as I was ten minutes ago.”

I can’t help it. I’m desperate to make things better for her, even if in small ways.

And, during last weekend, I have.

The Worst Remote in the World

The hospital bed we have set up in what was formerly our living room is really good to have. Because of it, Susan is always close to the family. It’s easy for me to get her food (the kitchen is in the adjoining room). She has a great view of our cul-de-sac, which is where all the neighborhood kids play.

The bed itself is comfortable, too; the head and feet can be raised at the touch of a button.

And that’s where the problem is.

Allow me to introduce you to what I consider the worst remote ever designed:


First of all, those blister-style buttons are entirely invisible in low light, and you would (not) be surprised at how often one encounters a low light situation when one is in bed.

Second, can you tell which button raises your head? Yeah, the top-left one. I’ll bet you got that one right. And which button lowers your head? If you guessed the bottom-left button — the button that shows a lowered head — you guessed wrong. No, the button that lowers the head is the blister button at the top-right: the one that shows lowered feet.

Oh, and it gets better. To raise your feet, you press the button over the lowered head. Yes, really. And the worst one is: to lower your feet, you press the button showing raised feet. That’s right: that bottom-right button does exactly the opposite of what it shows.

If you’re confused by this now, consider how you might feel trying to decipher this thing if you were really sick and not thinking at your clearest.

I’m sorry; I need a moment to let my blood pressure return to normal. I tend to take stuff like this a little personally right now.

Anyway, here is how I rectified the problem, using sticker dots and some tape:


Problem solved. I’m a hero.

Bike Tech Rules

Another problem Susan’s got is getting enough to drink. She’s weak, she’s tired, and her hands shake. It’s a big effort for her to raise her head, find, lift and sip from a cup or bottle.

Here is my solution:


There’s a lot of clutter in that picture, so I’ll explain.

  1. I ziptied a carabiner-style keychain holder to the rail on Susan’s bed.
  2. I hung a Camelbak water bottle from the carabiner.
  3. I added a Camelbak drink tube adapter to the water bottle.
  4. I ziptied another carabiner to the rail as a place to hang the bite valve.

The result? A non-leaking, non-dribbling, non-spilling way to drink that Susan can easily find even in the dark. She doesn’t have to lift a bottle or cup, and can just let the bite valve fall out of her mouth when she’s done.

I believe this may be the best use of Camelbak technology, ever. I’m surprised that they don’t have setups like these in hospitals; they’re much easier for a sick patient to get to than a traditional cup.

I can’t help but think that my solution to this problem is strongly tied to what I know: I’m a cyclist, so of course I solved this problem using zipties and a Camelbak drink tube.

So: hooray for bike tech and its applications in the real world.


  1. Comment by Paula Kirsch | 11.9.2008 | 9:24 pm

    Your practical solutions are wonderful Elden, good for you, and good for your Susan!!


  2. Comment by Susan | 11.9.2008 | 9:25 pm

    I love it…can I hire you?? I work with kids with special needs and we’re always ’solving problems’ – you’d fit right in!

    Great ideas! Tell Susan we’re thinking of her!

  3. Comment by Carolyn | 11.9.2008 | 9:25 pm

    you might want to think about patenting that thing…awesome solution.

  4. Comment by Marla | 11.9.2008 | 9:29 pm

    I knew I loved those straw adaptors for some reason. Great job!

  5. Comment by Carmen | 11.9.2008 | 9:32 pm

    I second the comment about patenting that..I work in a hospital and we have nothing like that…it would work wonderfully.

  6. Comment by amy in az | 11.9.2008 | 9:33 pm

    Yes, you ARE the smartest Bike Tech ever… and a most loving and thoughtful husband.

  7. Comment by Uphill Battle | 11.9.2008 | 9:35 pm

    You are the MacGuyver of bike techs! Kudos on your ingenuity! Continued prayers and good wishes.

  8. Comment by Aaron | 11.9.2008 | 9:38 pm


  9. Comment by bikerchick | 11.9.2008 | 9:44 pm

    Awesomely creative solutions! You rock in so many ways. Keep winning, Susan!!!

  10. Comment by Eloise | 11.9.2008 | 9:46 pm

    Bravo, Fatty! I love how innovative you are in meeting Susan’s needs. Certainly your great love for her shines through.

  11. Comment by Kathleen | 11.9.2008 | 9:49 pm

    Fabulous ingenuity and creative thinking! Go Fatty!

    WIN Susan!

  12. Comment by Rob | 11.9.2008 | 9:49 pm

    Dude….that’s genius!! Well done.

  13. Comment by Roo | 11.9.2008 | 10:00 pm

    If I ever get sick, god forbid, I hope I have someone as caring, loving, and ingenious taking care of me as Susan does. You are truly awesome!

  14. Comment by Emily | 11.9.2008 | 10:03 pm

    Zipties– is there anything they can’t do?

  15. Comment by TXBuckeye | 11.9.2008 | 10:11 pm


    I’ve read for a long time and never posted. You should TOTALLY patent that carabiner/camelbak/drinking apparatus and sell it to hospitals.

  16. Comment by Woody | 11.9.2008 | 10:15 pm

    Awesome fix!!

  17. Comment by PedalDork | 11.9.2008 | 10:18 pm

    Hey Elden, we get the same complaints about those remotes. They just flat suck. I love your fix!!We may use that for other patients. Keep up the great care your giving Susan. Your OSSM!!

  18. Comment by Don | 11.9.2008 | 10:20 pm

    You rule! Thats some crazy awesome techniques buddy. God Bless you guys!

  19. Comment by Mom of Fatty | 11.9.2008 | 10:37 pm

    I agree with that other Carolyn: Patent-too late, someone who knows the process will read and do it. That is ok. will help zillions. Keep it up!

  20. Comment by bobbieh | 11.9.2008 | 10:56 pm

    Love what you’ve come up with!! I always liked it when my patient’s families have helped out!
    Love/hugs to all of you ~

  21. Comment by Redheadstepchild | 11.9.2008 | 11:30 pm

    Well, not entirely best ever. I see no duct tape….

  22. Comment by KanyonKris | 11.9.2008 | 11:37 pm

    That remote IS atrocious. Your solution is great. Maybe glow-in-the-dark stickers for low light?

    I dig the hydration frankenstein job! You should send that to CamelBak.

  23. Comment by Gustavo | 11.10.2008 | 12:41 am

    Fatty, I’m in the medical field and you might as well have a product in your hands. Even if you couldn’t patent it (because of the CamelBak thingy and all that), send it as a serious suggestion to CamelBak… it could help much more people that you and I could imagine.

    Besides that, your dedication to Susan is truly humbling and speaks a lot about your relationship. WIN SUSAN!

  24. Comment by buckythedonkey | 11.10.2008 | 3:34 am

    The Camelbak mash-up rocks! Nice one fatty and…

    …WIN SUSAN!!

  25. Comment by bikemike | 11.10.2008 | 5:28 am

    hooray, indeed.

  26. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 11.10.2008 | 5:42 am

    Fantastic. I hope you’ve sent those photos off to the MacGyver fan club. Or the boyscouts. They both award merit badges for that kind of stuff.

    And I’ll order 2 please. 1 red and 1 blue. I’m sure to need them since I’m returning to track racing this month and immobilised limbs are a standard byproduct.

  27. Comment by Mike Roadie | 11.10.2008 | 6:01 am

    Great fix…..and an awesome way to channel your energies! How come you didn’t fix the remote with a CamelBak and Zip Ties?????


  28. Comment by Di | 11.10.2008 | 6:48 am

    Grrr! The bed in my ultrasound room has a remote like that, except there are three adjustments. It irritates the crap out of my whenever I have to make an adjustment. It’s usually by trial and error.

  29. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 11.10.2008 | 6:58 am

    Your solutions rock. Zipties, camelbak tubes, the only thing missing is duct tape.


  30. Comment by Jeff | 11.10.2008 | 6:59 am

    Nice job, Fatty.
    Allow me to channel Clif Claven:
    It’s a little-know fact that the original hydration pack was invented by a hospital worker who adapted an IV bag to carry in a back-pack so he could hydrate on long bike rides.
    It’s like you brought the camel-bak back to it’s roots.

  31. Comment by CC | 11.10.2008 | 7:14 am

    a hero and an artist, good work!

  32. Comment by Nina in Ohio | 11.10.2008 | 7:15 am

    Your “hobby” continues to pay off Elden – and I’m sure Susan appreciates being able to get her own drink when she wants it. Way to improvise!

  33. Comment by Pat | 11.10.2008 | 7:16 am

    You are a wonderful partner. Your thoughtfulness is beyond most…..Take care.

  34. Comment by ann | 11.10.2008 | 7:45 am

    Important victories – this is what everyday WINNING looks like! Thanks for showing us how it’s done.

  35. Comment by ann | 11.10.2008 | 7:45 am

    Important victories – this is what everyday WINNING looks like! Thanks for showing us how it’s done.

  36. Comment by rich | 11.10.2008 | 7:46 am

    Awesome Job Fatty!
    Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
    Definitely send that photo over to camelbak.

  37. Comment by Al Maviva | 11.10.2008 | 7:51 am

    Elden, your caring-ness is amazing and world class, utterly admirable; but your engineering habits are pure Microsoft. I can see why you loved that job. Here, you are clearly getting the job done, but I’m guessing that you think Feng Shui are those tasty little mushrooms in Hot & Sour Soup. After the prelude to your article, I was (briefly and mistakenly) expecting an elegant little re-engineering of the remote. But no… smiley faces that git ‘er done! Awesome. A great patch to make an inherently flawed product relatively workable.

    The Apple approach, of course, would have been to crack the remote open, rewire the buttons so that the up and down for the head were in one location and intuitive, and the feet in the other, and then reprint the face of the remote with simple graphics, re-install and re-assemble. And then to be smug about it for the next 10 years and to also explain that “I’m not really interested in going into the water bottle fixing market at this time.”

    I think I like your approach better, and this explains why I’m a PC guy and don’t own even a single black turtleneck.

  38. Comment by WheelDancer | 11.10.2008 | 7:54 am

    Innovation is a true elixir, nice work!

  39. Comment by paul | 11.10.2008 | 8:04 am

    Nice work.
    Can a line of FatCyclist accessories be far behind?

  40. Comment by Red | 11.10.2008 | 8:33 am

    You are doing a great job!

  41. Comment by highwaymunky | 11.10.2008 | 8:46 am

    Nice use of Zip ties!


  42. Comment by Mocougfan | 11.10.2008 | 8:54 am

    Strong work brother.

  43. Comment by Ka_Jun | 11.10.2008 | 9:14 am

    zipties and a Camelbak…awesome!

  44. Comment by Jer | 11.10.2008 | 9:18 am

    That’s an INGENIOUS idea. I think you should patent it, seriously and then sell it to home health care agencies, medical supply stores, medical manufacturers, pharmacies and hospitals.

  45. Comment by hp | 11.10.2008 | 9:22 am

    once again, you prove your macgyver-like genius! WIN Susan!!!

  46. Comment by Jaime O. | 11.10.2008 | 9:22 am

    lollll I don’t know which one of you is funnier in that story…Susan with, “No, I’m just as comfortable now as I was ten minutes ago.” or you with the zip ties and stickers. What a STUPID remote.

  47. Comment by cafn8 | 11.10.2008 | 9:30 am

    That remote: By engineers – for engineers

    @Jeff/ Cliff Claven

    I’m glad you said it, because I was going to

  48. Comment by NoTrail | 11.10.2008 | 9:40 am

    It’s amazing that more time isn’t devoted to ‘thinking things through’ when designing medical devices. I think your new remote and hydration system are the perfect answers. Glad to see someone thinking.

    I hope Susan is finding things more comfortable for your efforts. Peace.

  49. Comment by XCTiger | 11.10.2008 | 9:45 am


    I totally applaud your use of available bike stuff to make things easier and more convenient for Susan. What surprises me though is, no duct tape. Then again, zipties are the duct tape of the 21st century.

    If Susan has troubles drawing water from the camelback bottle, use a regular camelback bladder and hang it slightly higher than her head. With a little elevation to the bladder it will be easier for her to draw water into her mouth. Of course too much elevation and you could make it like drinking from a firehose.

    cafn8, I’m an engineer, and even I didn’t understand that remote.

  50. Comment by sansauto | 11.10.2008 | 9:55 am

    great post. We have a sleep number bed with a remote. While it’s easy to decipher what it will do, our problem is that someone will roll over onto it and suddenly you hear the air releasing from the bed. On a good night we are able to find the remote before we hit the box springs.

    We’re praying for you.

  51. Comment by leroy | 11.10.2008 | 10:22 am

    Note for Susan:

    If you are tired of Elden’s repetitive “Are you comfortable?” inquiries, try responding with a shrug of your shoulders:

    “Ehh, I make a living.”

    Best wishes to you and your family.

  52. Comment by eclecticdeb | 11.10.2008 | 10:36 am


    The drink thingy is awesome. I could use something like that when I wake up at night — parched — but too lazy to reach over to the nightstand and get a drink from the bottle I left there (much less actually get UP and get a drink).

    As for the remote — what’s with the three toes?

  53. Comment by Donna Tocci | 11.10.2008 | 10:45 am

    You are wonderful (and creative)!

  54. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.10.2008 | 10:51 am

    Auuurgh! I AM an engineer, and I did properly figure out which button did what prior to scrolling down.

    I feel unclean, now that I look at the thing through your eyes, Elden. (I was imagining the wiring scheme, and pretty much ignoring the icons).

    Well done with the fixes.

    WIN! Susan

  55. Comment by Charisa | 11.10.2008 | 10:53 am

    Awesomely thrifty. Win win win!!!

  56. Comment by Kristina | 11.10.2008 | 11:01 am

    Elden, you’re an awesome husband. Susan is a lucky woman.

    Just thought you should know that.


    PS: Got my FC jersey, arm warmers, and bottle on Friday. My 6 year old daughter is thoroughly impressed at the pink + horse scheme. Right away she demanded her own FC bottle, and asked about the jersey: “Do they have them for children?” She would sooo totally rock one if they did.

  57. Comment by AlicesYellowPorsche | 11.10.2008 | 11:33 am

    fatty – my dad was in the hospital over the spring from a motorcycle accident, and he had broken both wrists. ergo, it was very hard for him to get a drink from any kind of cup because *dingdingding* his wrists were broken. you’re contraption would have been PERFECT. we also had a hospital bed (he also shattered his right femur), and that remote is a showcase of human design stupidity. you’re little stickers are not only cute, they work. patent what you have done and you will never have to work again.

  58. Comment by Gillian | 11.10.2008 | 11:48 am

    I’m just impressed that you managed all of these improvements with nary a hint of duct tape.

    Win Nelsons!

  59. Comment by Badder | 11.10.2008 | 12:00 pm

    Do you really only have 3 toes?!?

  60. Pingback by Practical Improvements « turnings | 11.10.2008 | 12:00 pm

    [...] 2008 Practical Improvements Posted by Daniel under Solved!, advocacy, personal, tech   Practical Improvements: The result? A non-leaking, non-dribbling, non-spilling way to drink that Susan can easily find [...]

  61. Comment by Joel | 11.10.2008 | 12:16 pm

    Nice adaptation. The remote makes me think of an article I read a while back about a school of thought in engineering where the function of things should be obvious so that instructions are unneeded (like push/pull signs on doors). You’d fit right in.

  62. Comment by Kt | 11.10.2008 | 12:31 pm


    I like how you have made the water bottle easy to remove and refill, while not interfering with the practical-ness of it all.

    Duct tape would have been overkill. Unless you drew your remote pictures on the duct tape, and placed it over the stupid remote pictures…. Hm.

    Naw, I like your cheesy stickers. Good for a chuckle, and isn’t that a good thing?

    WIN SUSAN!!! :)

  63. Comment by E-Jayjo | 11.10.2008 | 12:31 pm

    Necessity is the mother of invention, right? You seriously need to look into a way of developing that water bottle idea and patent it! Great idea.

  64. Comment by Kt | 11.10.2008 | 12:32 pm

    Although, on second look, you’ve placed a water bottle full of liquid next to the power strip. I don’t think that’s smart placement, but maybe you are limited in where you can install the thing.

  65. Comment by Dobovedo | 11.10.2008 | 12:41 pm

    Awesome solution with the camelbak.. but you lose points for not finding away to include duct tape in the solution. Zip ties are all well and good, but ya gotta have duct tape in there somewhere.

    Clydesteve – the graphics made sense to me too… and I almost hate to admit it. Top buttons ‘head’, bottom buttons ‘feet’, right buttons ‘down’, left buttons ‘up’. Direction of head/feet is indicated by arrows only, NOT there position in the other pictures.

    While they are “technically” correct, that doesn’t make them good graphics. I agree with Fatty… that’s the worse remote ever. I love the three little pointy toes. BTW, that’s a traditional cartoonist’s method; 3 or 4 is faster to draw than 5. Mickey Mouse, Flintstones, Simpsons… only 4.

  66. Comment by anji | 11.10.2008 | 12:50 pm

    You should approach camelback and ask them to further develop this technology… they may not realise they are sitting on a goldmine! And maybe you can ask for some royalties!

  67. Comment by Mike | 11.10.2008 | 1:32 pm

    Camelbak should hire you to market their stuff to hospitals. Very innovative, Fatty.

  68. Comment by Joni | 11.10.2008 | 1:40 pm

    Okay….I dont want to get all spiritual but I really have to share this with the you Mr. Nelson. I dont know you or your family and I dont know where you are spiritually, but I really feel led to share Ephesians 5:1-2 with you. I see in you what we all think a spouse should do for his or her mate if need be. But that is not always the case. In a situation when you could have easily chosen the path of self pity and despair, you have stepped in to become self “less” and to become all things for your wife and your children. Less of you and more of them….it is very commendable and very honoring to God. Susan is His child and this is a great comfort to Him to see the care and love that you are blessing her with…and I know that He carries you through it all. Anyway….we are continually touched by your strength and devotion to Susan and wanted to share this.

    “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

    There are probably a hundred different verses that might better suit your situation but this was the one that popped out at me as I just felt that you are giving your all to make Susan as comfortable and safe as you can and loving her with all you have as God has done for all of us. He certainly blessed Susan with you and your amazing children and family.

    WIN Nelsons!

  69. Comment by Karen | 11.10.2008 | 1:57 pm

    Patent that! You must be an engineer or have an engineering like mind…WIN Susan…!

  70. Comment by Rob L | 11.10.2008 | 2:14 pm

    Time for one of your open letters to camelback about your setup and suggesting it as a new market for their gear, and some free swag for you for thinking of it, plus say a million in commission a year for the 10 billion they will/can charge hospitals for the easy dispensers…:)

  71. Comment by CeeCee | 11.10.2008 | 2:43 pm

    You go Fatty! Way to fix stupid stuff! I think you’ve hit on something by using the Camelbak for Susan. Sounds like you better let Camelbak know they are missing a major market and let you in on some of the money they’ll be raking in.
    What on earth did we ever do before zipties? Duct tape and baling wire.

  72. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 11.10.2008 | 3:29 pm

    Jeff/ Cliff Claven
    You totally missed the opportunity for a “circle of life” reference.

  73. Comment by Big Shorty | 11.10.2008 | 3:47 pm


    Awesome use of bike/McGyver techniques on the water bottle. By profession I am a safety guy so I have to ask……..How close is that power strip to the water bottle? I think the photo may make it closer than it actually is, but hey if I heard you got electricuted while filling a water bottle I’d feel a bit responsible for not bringing it up.

    Just for the record I do run with scissors, swim just after eating and run with things in my mouth so I am by no means perfect.


  74. Comment by Heatherann | 11.10.2008 | 4:17 pm

    You are da man. And I’m sure that she appreciates it greatly!!!

  75. Comment by justrun | 11.10.2008 | 5:33 pm

    That is fascinating!

    Thinking of you all.

  76. Comment by Jake | 11.10.2008 | 5:36 pm

    Eldon – I’m happy you have Susan at home and applaud your ingenuity in working out details to make her comfortable. Home is the best place. We lost my father to cancer last week but were able to spend quality time with home surrounded by family. It was the worst week of my life but I will cherish it forever. There is a silver lining in everything and I hope you are able find it too. Best wishes to you and your family.

  77. Comment by gregc | 11.10.2008 | 6:24 pm

    Hey Fatty,
    Nice job on the McGyver hydration system. (he is one of my heros, but then you are too!)

    I got my fat cyclist jersey in the mail Friday, it took a few days before it dawned on me the meaning of the secret message in the back pocket- Brilliant!

    Win Susan, we are strong behind you!

  78. Comment by Shannon | 11.10.2008 | 7:29 pm


    Making her comfortable is the name of the game. You rock!

  79. Comment by Vince | 11.10.2008 | 9:48 pm

    Yeah, those darn remote pictures are kinda dumb…I never thought about putting my own pics to make it clearer, though at the time, it wasn’t the most pressing matter on my mind.

    Take Care

  80. Pingback by Bike Review Blog » Blog Archive » People’s Design Award and some stuff you should buy | 11.10.2008 | 10:10 pm

    [...] the bike blogs that I read on a regular basis. This morning, I noticed that Elden (aka Fatty) had posted something somewhat design related. Good post, but that is not the real reason why I want to link to his site today. Those of you who [...]

  81. Comment by 4get2remember | 11.11.2008 | 5:44 am

    You are a hero, dude. Smart thinking!!

    You and your family are in my prayers.

  82. Comment by Miles Archer | 11.11.2008 | 8:38 am

    What experience has lead you to believe that hospitals are run for the benefit of the patients? They are run by nurses, for nurses with the patients being a necessary evil ;-)

  83. Comment by Jenn | 11.11.2008 | 12:52 pm

    You are so awesome. I’m sure Susan tells you that, but I thought I’d toss in another vote from afar.

  84. Comment by Jenni | 11.11.2008 | 3:02 pm

    Oh my gosh, that remote sure would have come in handy when my sisters and I were caring for my dad. My dad’s bed was in the living room as well. My oldest sister went to perform a procedure on him and her knee hit the remote and he started going backward! Neither of them understood what was happening at first – my dad was looking at her like “what the heck?” She realized what was happening and got up. He said he thought he was going to end up in the neighbors yard. Every time I think of that I laugh out loud. Thanks for the memory, and for the great, innovative ideas should I ever need them again!
    Best wishes as always to you and Susan and your wonderful family. You guys are all awesome.

  85. Comment by Annie | 11.11.2008 | 5:13 pm

    Eldon, you are a hero. An inventive hero. Like a really awesome hero, with cheese.

  86. Comment by bikesgonewild | 11.11.2008 | 7:29 pm

    …i’m thinkin’ camelbak oughta go w/ yer concept & then start making regular donations to the WIN susan & fat cyclist fund…

    “mother of invention” & all that…

    …hats off to ya…

  87. Comment by Dave | 11.12.2008 | 10:47 am

    First of all, zip ties, like mechanical pencils, are made by God! lol

    The bed remote made me think of when my Mom was home and we had the hospital bed in the house and the buttons weren’t even labeled (?). The headrest control button was simply put above the footrest button. She hit the wrong button all the time. The only ones who knew it by feel were the nurses.

    Hell yeah, innovation is part applying tech readily available by the innovator, so rock on! ;-)

  88. Pingback by People’s Design Award and some stuff you should buy | Bike Review Blog | 12.18.2008 | 10:40 pm

    [...] the bike blogs that I read on a regular basis. This morning, I noticed that Elden (aka Fatty) had posted something somewhat design related. Good post, but that is not the real reason why I want to link to his site today. Those of you who [...]

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    [...] the bike blogs that I read on a regular basis. This morning, I noticed that Elden (aka Fatty) had posted something somewhat design related. Good post, but that is not the real reason why I want to link to his site today. Those of you who [...]


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