Fishing with One Paw

Kim Mullens is an exuberant spirit — you can hear it in her voice, punctuated with laughter and memorable phrases: "There are good days and bad days — sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug." In 1995 when she was 38, a tear in her carotid artery left her "with one paw," that kept her from working because she couldn’t climb into the cab of the CAT 966 earth-moving equipment she operated.

Kim loved her job moving rocks in the quarry, and knew she could operate the CAT with her good right hand. She wanted to go back to work: "I’m not much for sitting still," she said. She and a welder friend designed a bucket that could easily attach to another piece of equipment and lift her in and out of the cab. That invention enabled her to work at the quarry for another 20 years.

At 58, Kim is ready for something else — "Construction is hard work with one paw." Last year was her last operating heavy equipment. She now draws Social Security Disability.

Kim lives on the Delaware River in Narrowsburg, New York, and loves the outdoors. "It’s a beautiful world and Mother Nature takes pretty good care of it," she said. In the winter she goes deer hunting. Last year she got an eight-point buck, but her first love is fishing: "When I was a little kid I always went fishing, we’d start at one end of the creek in the morning and finish at the other end in the afternoon."

She fishes twice a week during fishing season, which starts April 1 and goes through fall. There’s also ice fishing, including a big shindig every Super Bowl Sunday. "We had more than 40 people last year. It was 40 below on the ice this year, but we build a big fire, and everybody has fun," she said.

Reeling in fish is essentially a two-handed operation. For a one-handed angler like Kim, that always meant having a chaperone, which sometimes defeats the purpose for fishing: "I like to get off by myself and I couldn’t do that," Kim said. She gets around quite well with a leg brace — so fishing is certainly doable. "It made me mad that I couldn’t fish by myself."

Working in her shop one day, a cordless screwdriver fell on the ground next to some fishing line. "The line just curled around it, and I thought ‘holy cow, maybe I could make this work for a fishing pole.’ So I put together a prototype," she recalled. Basically, she attached a cordless screwdriver to the fishing pole handle and then ran a cable from the motor to the reel. When she turned the motor on, it cranked the reel and pulled in the line.

Mutual friends put her in touch with Bob Walsh, an engineer and the owner of Pulse Technology in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. He manufactures items used in the medical industry, like pacemaker components — what Kim describes as "heart parts." Bob examined the prototype and liked what he saw. More important perhaps, he liked who he saw — Kim’s determination and sense of humor. "Let’s do this," Bob said. And thus was born the One-Der-Reel, a patented cordless system to reel in fishing line with the flick of a switch.

So far, marketing through their website, Kim and Bob have shipped to 11 states, including some short jigging poles for ice fishing last winter. "The One-Der-Reel enables survivors with hemiparesis, or people with no hand grip, or people who don’t want to put down their beer to go back to fishing," Kim said. "My little nieces and nephews love going fishing with me so they can use them. Hopefully it will help other people who are in the same shape I’m in. Sales were really good at Christmas."

They are currently developing an enhanced model with a specially designed engine mounted in the handle rather than attached to it. It will be lighter and easier to handle.

"Kim is a wildfire," said business partner Bob. "She doesn’t let a 20-year-old stroke get in her way. She doesn’t quit."

That shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, in her last job she moved mountains.

See Kim’s epic ‘trailer’ for the One-der Reel. Fun!

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