HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Sportsheets is developing custom adaptive slings intended to help quadriplegic and paraplegics re-experience intimacy with partners.
The company's founder, Tom Stewart, showed off samples of the specially made products designed for war veterans at last week's Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Road to Recovery Conference in San Diego, which brings severely wounded troops and their families "to encourage hope, healing and to start on the road to recovery."
Stewart, who retired from the U.S Navy in 2005, was a helicopter pilot and had rose to the rank of commander after 20 years in the military, including six years active duty and 14 years in the reserves. He started up Sportsheets in 1993.
Sportsheets products, Stewart said, can be adapted for unique needs that go beyond paraplegics and quadriplegics, including people with spinal column issues, nerve damage, back injuries and other wartime injuries.
"I brought with me samples of some of the sex toys we make that disabled people can use to help with achieving positions that are difficult to get into or maintain," Stewart said. "Several of the items were very popular with the disabled vets and their spouses.
"Specifically with the 'wheelers',” said Stewart, referring to vets in wheelchairs.
With the adaptive slings, the man hang almost in a superman fashion over the woman so they can have sex in the missionary position, he said.
"Just like with the thigh harness, it was the intimacy and the connection that this sling facilitated," he said. "Dealing with an injured spouse is stressful enough. When it comes to the effect it has on their sex lives it can be devastating for a couple.
"To get a small piece of their former sex life back is a huge gain for these couples that had thought that they would never be able to have intercourse or be in an intimate position like the missionary position again."
Sportsheets, which now employs more than 40, started with just one product, the Velcro Bed Sheet also known as the original "Sportsheet".
Since then, the company has grown to a catalog of over 400 different fantasy and lifestyle products that is moving into the mainstream.
Julie Stewart, Tom Stewarts sister and now president of Sportsheets, said that their family has always been proud of his long military career.
Stewart flew for two branches of the military including flying the CH-46 Sea Knight for the U.S. Marine Corps and the H-60 Sea Hawk for the U.S. Navy Reserves.
During his active duty he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Calif., and did a Western Pacific deployment (Thailand, Korea, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia) aboard the USS Tripoli, a helicopter assault ship.
"It is one thing for a company to just write a check to support a charity but we knew with our experience and expertise we could truly help Tom in designing a product that made a difference for our veterans that are returning home," Julie Stewart said. "Our mission statement has always been 'Keeping Couples Connected,' and now we are doing that for the most important people of all, our wounded soldiers."