Invention brings comfort to grieving

Kathrin Reams has come up with the idea of the Willa Wrap, a device used to keep the mouth closed after death.

Kathrin Reams

Death and dying is something that is generally not discussed openly in our society. Yet it’s something we will all face at some point for our aging parents and other family members and friends.After taking care of her mother, Willa Reams, in Grand Forks during her final weeks, Kathrin Reams came up with the idea of the Willa Wrap, a device used to keep the mouth closed after death.“I was taking care of mom between Sept. 2, 2010 and Oct. 2, 2010, she wasn’t really happy that when she dozed off to sleep at night that her mouth was open,” said Kathrin. “My mom said to me, ‘I must look awful sitting here with my mouth open.’ Being an avid quilter, she told me, ‘I have this stretchy, looped fabric in other room. Can you bring it to me.’ She put it on under her chin and over her head. When she fell asleep, her mouth wasn’t wide open. It wasn’t clamped tightly shut. It didn’t interfere with her breathing or anything. She just loved it. It made her feel more dignified and just at peace knowing her mouth wasn’t hanging open.”Kathrin said her mom wore the device for about two and a half weeks before she passed away.While running in the morning one day, Kathrin came up with the idea to name the product after her mother, Willa, who inspired her.“I came in from my run and said, ‘Mom, it’s going to be called the Willa Wrap. It’s going to be named after you,’” said Kathrin.Kathrin said her mom kept the product on when she was in a coma and died wearing it. When her dad went to put everything away, he took the wrap off of her.“Her jaw just dropped wide open,” said Kathrin. “He said, ‘I should just put that back on, shouldn’t I?’ I thought, ‘yeah dad.’ It just kind of it, even though I was a nurse, I was a daughter first. I kind of hit me that I had been at so many bed sites where the family asks for me to close the mouth. I thought, ‘Here’s a way – the Willa Wrap.’”Kathrin was born and raised in Washington State. She came with her parents to Canada at the age of nine and became a dual citizen. She lived here for 30 years before moving back to the United States.She currently lives in Loveland, Col., near Denver. The town where they send out all the valentines, she says.Her parents, Willa and Roger, came to Grand Forks after both retired in 1998. Roger still lives in town and has remarried.Willa was very active and well known with the Sunshine Quilter’s Club in Grand Forks.“She made so many beautiful quilts,” she added. “We all have beautiful heirlooms from mom. All the grandchildren got a quilt. She would make them for different organizations for raffles.”One of Willa’s quilts, He Walks with Me, which hangs in the lobby of the Boundary Hospital.Kathrin is now testing and marketing the Willa Wrap full-time. Due to regulations, the Willa Wrap is being sold as being for after death. She hopes to eventually do trials and receive permission to sell the product for before death.“Right now, the use is only for after death even though my mom used it before,” said Kathrin. “I can’t market it (for) before. It’s just for after to close the mouth and maintain dignity and leave that peaceful expression and a nice comforting feeling for the families. It’s comforting for them to see their loved ones with their mouth closed because you and I don’t walk around with our mouths open. Yet when we die, we lay there with our mouth open and that look is uncomfortable to families. They’re always asking to close it.”She has made a few sales so far including several to Brett Wilson of Dragon’s Den, who plans to give them out to Calgary-area hospices at Christmas.

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