New Roads native Jack Kellerman once feared that being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 30 would mean his life was nearly over.
Almost 25 years later, he is busier than ever.
Kellerman, 54, has patented a device that can help almost any household around the world.
He developed The Zip Quicker, which allows for an easier – and much cleaner – process of putting food and liquids into a Ziploc bag.
“I had the idea a long time ago, but never followed through on it,” said Kellerman, who lives in Baton Rouge.
Kellerman – a father of five – has been housebound for three years. He spends much of that time in bed.
He had his first bouts of MS a week after he and his wife, Suzanne, gave birth to their third child.
“I asked God what my future would be. Would I be able to work or take care of my family? Kellerman said.
It suffered a few spells over the next 10 years, but always bounced back.
The situation has changed. He went from walking with the use of a cane to using a wheelchair, eventually being bedridden over the past three years.
He hasn’t left the house for two years, and that was for the wedding of his daughter Yvonne, who was married at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New Roads.
“I haven’t left my house since then,” he said. “They push me out onto the back porch, into the living room, but it’s just too hard to get into the wheelchair, and the (wheelchair) is too painful for me to sit on. I better stay in bed.
Kellerman said he was nearly paralyzed, although he still had use of his right arm and hand.
That too has become a challenge, he said. But he said he had a great coach by his side.
“My wife, Suzanne, reminds me that we’re all in this together,” Kellerman said. “She really is one in a million.”
Three of his children – Anne, Yvonne and Marshall – now live alone.
“We’re in this together – my wife and five kids stepped in to help me, and I have a lot of people praying for me,” he said. “It’s really the only way out.
“We’ve got a hell of a support group here,” Kellerman said.
Amid the seemingly hopeless situation, he clung to the proverbial “ounce of hope”.
That ounce of hope was technology.
From bed, he searched online for a “virtual assistant overseas” and hired an online assistant from the Philippines.
“I work five days a week on a Zoom call with my virtual assistant,” Kellerman said.
Daily communication with a virtual assistant in the Philippines may seem quite extensive, but it doesn’t end there.
His patent application is in Pakistan. The invention designs were created in Saudi Arabia and the logo was designed in Germany.
The product design was engineered in Bangladesh.
“Also, my virtual assistant is in the Philippines and my factory is in China,” Kellerman said. “It’s so cool to be able to do all that.”
It’s a far cry from the days of despair and wondering what he would do for the rest of his life.
“It’s almost like an epiphany,” he said. “Although my body fails me, my mind does not.”
The invention brought Kellerman a new sense of hope.
It makes him smile when he sees the number of orders on the site.
He also gets a morale boost from people who send messages saying how much they like him and how they tell their friends about him.
“I love it because it connects me with the world and says I’m doing something productive — not just with the world,” Kellerman said. “It’s not just with business partners around the world, but also with customers around the world.
“The technology is beautiful,” he said.
Kellerman said he saw no reason to feel bitter despite his condition.
“I have more blessings than I should be allowed,” he said. “I tried to complain and it didn’t help much.
“I decided to go in another direction and do good,” Kellerman said. “It is what it is, and I have to deal with it to move on.”
He said he hoped technology could play a role in curing MS.
Kellerman said his condition was too extensive, but he hopes it can help future patients.
For now, he is enjoying it more than he has for several years.
“I’ve had more blessings than I should be allowed,” Kellerman said. “Life gave me lemons, and now I put those lemons in the Zip Quicker.”
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