Comfizz Story by co-founder Lorraine Alikhanizadeh BSC hons, PGDip SRD

Comfizz Story by co-founder Lorraine Alikhanizadeh BSC hons, PGDip SRD


“When I grow up, I want to do something that helps people” that is what I used to say to my young self. I did not know exactly what that would look like, never imagined it would be in the form of support wear, but here we are.

It started with Sportswear

The original Comfizz established 1998 was a sports and Leisure wear company, one of the first to bring ‘performance base layers’ to the UK. My husband, Nozar, ran the company initially from home with just one designer to help him.

Then came the bowel disease

The Comfizz you see today specialising in medical support wear emerged in 2004 when my dad Ernie, who had been battling with Ulcerative Colitis for nearly 30yrs had stoma surgery. This procedure left him physically better but emotionally broken. He went from being a proud outgoing confident man, to someone who was depressed, quiet and self conscious who didn’t want to go out. This wasn’t the dad I knew, I wanted the old Ernie back so set about looking for solutions to help him.

The main issues he was facing seemed to be:

  • A feeling of dragging on his stoma as the pouch filled,
  • Underwear sitting across the stoma, which was uncomfortable,
  • Low self confidence with body image.

We designed a very simple solution which seemed to address most of these issues all in one go. Using the specialist knowledge we had in high performance base layer garments we produced a high waist, two-way stretch boxer designed to sit well above the stoma site, covering the pouch & supporting it, whilst also improving the contours of his body shape.

Ernie tries the first prototype

We gave Ernie the first prototype to sample and being a traditionalist Y-front undies man, he looked a little sceptical! That scepticism was happily short lived, as the next day Ernie came to visit us with a huge smile on his face and he was not holding or supporting his pouch as he often would.

For the first time since his surgery, he said he had experienced moments when he, forgot he even had a stoma, he was so comfortable. From that day, I had my old dad back.

At his next hospital appointment Ernie showed the stoma nurse his new support undies & she was really impressed, there was nothing like them on offer to ostomates at that time, only rigid uncomfortable belts.  She asked if we could bring samples to a support group meeting. It was at this point that Nozar asked me to join the company, as I had a science and nutrition background which filled in a lot of gaps in his knowledge. Together we made a strong team.

After that first contact with Ernies’ stoma nurse, one meeting led to another, we met and talked with hundreds of nurses and thousands of ostomates over the years which helped us to develop the garments you see today. Most of this range is available through the NHS on prescription in the UK and can be ordered directly through our new online prescription ordering service!

New Premises

In 2014 we moved into our current premises with offices and warehouse to hold our growing range. This was dream for us, with space to expand and improve our services.

We have also been able to carve out a small but perfectly formed space to dedicate as a recording studio to film footage for our youtube channel!

Comfizz Care Centre

With these new premises, we were also able to open the Comfizz care centre where customers could book an appointment for a one to one with a stoma nurse, have any questions answered, or see a garment specialist for advice or a fitting. These appointments are now  bookable online, but with the current COVID-19 situation, meetings are only available on zoom or over the phone.

 

Hernia Clinical Trials

As time passed and we became more deeply involved with the field of ostomy care, we noticed how many ostomates develop a hernia around their stoma; over 50%, which can actually become more troublesome than the stoma.

We knew how much our garments were improving quality of lives but wondered if they could in any way help to prevent hernias developing. So we devised a clinical trial, conducted independently at Queens Hospital London over a 12-month period with 100 patients. The results were staggering. Patients were educated and advised to wear light support wear immediately after stoma surgery, then step up to firmer support for strenuous activities. The incidence of hernias reduced from 23% to just 1%.

Pants To Hernias National  Campaign

Armed with this knowledge we launched a national campaign called “Pants to Hernias” here in the UK, working with nurses to use support wear as a tool to prevent hernias rather than just manage one. Our aim was to remove any obstacles to trying them out by giving nurses access to free waistbands to use on all newly operated ostomates. We gave away over 8000 free waistbands.

New Brand

We also saw a need for better underwear for holding incontinence pads in place and so developed another brand called ‘Enso’. At this point we renamed the Company to Kavendor Ltd with Comfizz and Enso becoming brand names.

Support Level System

We came to understand the need for different levels of support to meet the varying demands of life, and so developed the Levels 1, 2, 3 system, which is now widely used by many companies.

As Comfizz were the ones who introduced the concept of tiered support levels and as others have followed, we have now taken it upon ourselves to set an industry standard in terms of compression measurements for each level. We want it to be very clear, exactly how much compression a level 1, 2 or 3 garment provides the wearer and ensure all brands adhere to this measurement. This has never been done before and is a huge undertaking, but we are well underway, with years of research already completed, we hope to bring this to you in 2021. Watch this space!

Going Global

We have won many prestigious awards for our innovative solutions from BHTA (British Healthcare Trading Association), Institute of Directors, Entrepreneurs Circle and Stomawise, all of which we are incredibly proud of, but the feeling that beats all of these awards is knowing how many people are benefiting from Comfizz today and that we are making a positive difference in people’s lives. That feeling makes it worth getting up for every day and continuing to innovate.

We sell globally online but have also begun to export through our growing number of distributers from several countries. Some of these distributers have been successful in getting the Comfizz garments on prescription in their countries too. Comfizz are becoming accessible essentials for Ostomates around the world!

Look for your silver lining

One final note before I leave you;

When our youngest son was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2010 and had to undergo bowel surgery at the age of 13, I spent months nursing him back to health and nearly didn’t return to work at all. It felt so unfair for our family to be struck again with bowel disease, especially in one so young. I was deeply saddened, angry and frustrated, but then my innate desire to find answers and fix things, drove me to seek alternate ways to help my son beyond the toxic meds he was facing, which I did, very successfully! The knowledge I gained in my search to help him, resulted in my book ’Better Bowels And Beyond’ which hopefully will help others too, who are struggling with bowel disease and looking for some answers.

Thankfully with time I came to realise that our understanding of the pain and suffering bowel disease causes, was a critical factor in ensuring we keep Comfizz as a compassionate caring company, never forgetting why we exist and what we want to achieve.

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It’s so true that every cloud has a silver lining,we just need to remember to always look for it.

I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in Comfizz journey will be, or even what the next book will be!


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