Alumna’s startup aids amputees

Amira Idris VTA
Courtesy of Amira Idris
Amira Idris started a company that helps amputees by providing them with vibrating socks that help with phantom limb pain.

BY
SENIOR REPORTER

A self-motivated trailblazer, Amira Idris discovered her purpose in life before she turned 24: designing therapeutic sleeves for amputees suffering from phantom limb pain.

Dedicated to aiding amputees, her work has the potential to transform the lives of millions around the world. Vibrating Therapeutic Apparel (VTA) provides socks for amputees to wear on the end of a residual limb. The sock applies vibration therapy to help disrupt the pain signals relayed from the nerve endings to the brain.

For Idris, VTA is more than just an income. Keen on helping those in need, Idris, 24, of Woodbridge, Va., wants to make a profound difference for amputees suffering from this pain.

“It’s very important to make sure that when you do something, especially if you’re going into business, to make sure that you do something that you are passionate about because the road is very bumpy,” Idris said. “It gets really stressful and you need something to hold on to.”

While interning at a prosthetics clinic during her junior year, Idris recalled a disheartening conversation with a middle-aged man suffering from phantom limb pain. Exhausted and frustrated from the relentless, throbbing pain in his residual limb, the man began to experience suicidal thoughts.

Idris credits this exchange as the discerning moment that pushed her to research more about the topic. She discovered that there are nearly 2 million people in the United States alone living with limb loss. Of those amputees, about 80 percent suffer from the horrors of phantom limb pain, including loss of sleep and a decrease in quality of life.

Unsatisfied with the current products to relieve this pain, Idris came up with the idea for the vibrating sleeve. With the help of university program grants, like the Summers Founder Program, VTA became a legitimate entity.

Idris graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2015. She learned of the university’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship during her senior year. Through the program, she placed in the College of Health and Science’s First Step Grand Challenge Program, a yearlong innovation competition for undergraduates. Ranking in third place with her VTA idea, Idris became inspired to take her idea through the master’s program. She earned her master’s degree in entrepreneurship and design in 2016 and now leads VTA as CEO.

In January 2016, Idris placed first in the College Pitch Philly competition at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s annual conference. VTA was awarded $5,000 and the company continues to grow.

After solidifying one prototype of the vibrating sleeve, she is producing more to test with volunteers. As soon as the sleeve is certified, VTA will start taking initial orders from customers and begin the manufacturing process.

Idris continues to balance the management of her growing business while also trying to stay motivated, especially with the frustrations of limited funding. In these times of overwhelming stress, Idris remembers the people she is helping and the remarkable difference VTA can make.

“I’ve had moments when I get really stressed out and ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’” Idris said. “But I get emails from people who hear about what I’m doing and they tell me their stories — it always reminds me that this is why I’m doing what I’m doing. They are one of the reasons I keep pushing forward.”

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