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Interview with CEO

David Warden is the owner of Elite Circle Computing, creator of the i-Inject app and sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis. He recently answered questions about his fight against the disease, his love of the iPhone and the inspiration for the app.

Q: How did you find out you had Multiple Sclerosis?

A: In June 2008, I had painful headaches behind my right eye and my vision started getting worse and worse, so I made an appointment with my eye doctor. He sent me to a specialist because he was suspicious that it could be Multiple Sclerosis but he didn't tell me. The next doctor wanted to make sure nothing was pressing against the eye, so he said, "You have to get an MRI immediately, and possibly three days' worth of steroid drips to help correct the problem." That day I had an MRI and waited for the radiologist to read the MRI. I didn't find out until later that I had lesions behind my eye and that it was indicative of Multiple Sclerosis.

Q: How did you handle the news?

A: It was all very shocking at first and things were still unknown as I was bouncing from eye doctor to eye doctor, to an MRI, and then I had to wait for the results from the radiologist.

Q: Didn't someone say something about Lyme disease?

A: Yes, at one point, they said, "We'll test you for Lyme disease, so go get a blood test and make sure that it's NOT Lyme disease." That came back negative, but it took a while to get that information back from the doctor. By then they had already done the MRI, and the radiologist had sent me the report and said that the lesions were indicative of Multiple Sclerosis.

Q: How has it affected your life?

A: It has affected my life in many ways. Mentally, there are a lot of things that mess with your head as far as wondering if you are going to be able to do things in the future, currently, tomorrow, next week. Physically, I have varying degrees of numbness and it's tough to walk. A lot of people with MS say they get tired, but I work a lot and stay up late, so I haven't really noticed the tiredness.

Q: What about the numbness?

A: My leg, knee and hand on my right side of my body are affected, and that correlates with the lesions that were discovered on the MRI in June 2008 on the left side of my brain. So it affects the right side of my body.

Q: Is there any way that can get better?

A: Some people say yes, some people say no. The drug that I take is all about preventing further flare-ups, making sure that there is more time between flare-ups. I have asked doctors, "How am I going to know if the drug is working?" and that's a very common question. The answer to that is I really won't know unless I weren't on the drug.

Q: How has your treatment been going?

A: Well, immediately following the optic neuritis, which was diagnosed by the eye doctor and after the MRI, they said I needed to go for a three-day drip of steroids. That occurred immediately for the next three days for an hour to two hours a day.

Q: Did the steroids clear up the optic neuritis?

A: Yes, the steroids returned the vision to about 90-95 percent, and it took the three days to do it. At that point, it was time to go see a neurologist and determine what could be done. I had several appointments: one at National Institutes of Health. According to doctors at NIH, everything seemed normal except for the lesions on the MRI. My response to the tests was just fine. I had another MRI done in December 2008 with a different neurologist and she said it was time to go on injections to prevent further flare-ups and further progression of the disease.

Q: They started you on the shot treatment right away?

A: After filing all the paperwork in December, I did not go on the shots until March 2009. I was disappointed in the amount of time that it took, and a little frustrated. Thankfully, I wasn't seeing too many issues or problems at that point. So I went on the drug, which is a daily injection.

Q: What drug are you on?

A: The drug is Copaxone, and it is given via subcutaneous injection . One shot a day, around the same time, rotating areas of the skin to try to limit the amount of atrophy that your skin goes through by damaging it every time you inject with a needle. I have to rotate the injection sites among seven locations on the body.

Q: What kind of instructions did you get on how to keep track of that?

A: A nurse came the first time and showed me how to give myself injections, and I got all kinds of packets and literature and DVDs. A ton of material to read, and essentially I got this spiral-bound book with pictures of shot locations, almost like a calendar. There was a picture of a body and the seven locations to inject and within those seven locations, you could inject so many times per location, rotating around within two inches of each injection. The idea is to not inject in the same location each week, not hit it more than once a week. So one day you do the left arm, one day you do the right arm, then the stomach, then the left leg, right leg, left hip, right hip.

Q: When did you become a "tech" guy?

A: I guess I started loving technology around the age of eight. I was taking things apart and putting things back together, like their oven and toaster. Then I got introduced to the Commodore VIC 20 and the very first Apple computer. I would go over to friends’ houses and hang out with their dads just so I could play Swashbuckler on the Apple computer. I remember being just down the street from another friend and connecting from one VIC 20 to another VIC 20 via 300 baud modem over dial-up phone line and thinking it was the greatest thing since sliced bread just because I could type on the remote screen. From there, it just snowballed. I just wanted to know as much as possible and keep learning. Anything that was gadget oriented caught my eye, and I just wanted to know how everything worked as far as technology was concerned.

Q: This eventually became your profession?

A: Yeah, I pretty much left school to go work for AT&T. From there, I began working for an IT consulting firm, moving 20-inch monitors around a warehouse. And this was when monitors weighed 50 pounds apiece. We performed lots of deployments of workstations and servers. I studied and worked on getting certifications. Then, that company got bought out and I had had enough of not having control over my own destiny, so I started my own IT consulting firm, Elite Circle Computing, in February 2006.

Q: When did you get into the iPhone?

A: As soon as it was announced, I was into it and I wanted to know all about it. Then, I waited in line the day it was released. I remember talking some girl into getting the eight-gig model instead of the four-gig model of the iPhone, thinking “Who could ever deal with just four gigs of memory the way we utilize space these days?”

Q: A year after that, the 3G came out?

A: Yeah, when the 3G came out I decided to upgrade and give my fiancée the 2G. Now she can't live without it.

Q: She got the "old" iPhone?

A: She got the old iPhone, I got the new phone… a little pass-down of technology, keeping in mind she never even had an e-mail address before I met her. Now she was being introduced to the most wonderful phone on the planet.

Q: How long did you hold off on getting the 3GS?

A: I had to wait a little bit until my contract renewal came due, but it wasn't long. My fiancée got upgraded to the 3G then.

Q: So, you kind of like the iPhone then?

A: The 3GS is a great piece of equipment. Cell phones without Internet and touch screens seem like rotary phones.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the i-Inject app? How did you merge the two?

A: Everybody seemed to be coming out with iPhone applications left and right. There are 15 different “farting” applications out and a couple “to do” lists. Then I started seeing the worldwide developers’ conferences, watching the keynote speeches and they showed the medical applications. It sort of clicked that I was taking injections, I was writing things down and I hate to write. My handwriting is horrible! I would write as little as possible to document each injection, and I needed to be reminded to take it, and be sure that I took it at the same time every night and made my rotations properly. I thought, “This would be an ideal application for the iPhone where you just touch everything. You can type on the virtual keyboard and you don’t have to worry about writing things down. You can track the injections, keep records of them, and then provide it to your doctor. The possible features kept popping into my head one after another.

Q: Will this be strictly for MS patients?

A: At first it was designed that way, but then it evolved that people who take any type of injection should find it useful. Then we added support for oral medications as well because chances are as you grow older, you’re not taking just one medication; you’re taking two, three, four. You have no idea when you need to take them, and you ask yourself if this is the right med, and did I take my shot today? So it just evolved into being able to track both shots and oral medication for whatever medicines someone needs to take.

Q: This being your first iPhone app, how did your company decide who to partner with to design it?

A: I contacted my good buddy, Dave, who works for Apple and asked if he knew of any reputable developers. I ended up getting a list of developers and I sat down with all my criteria and contacted each one of them and told them I had a great idea for an iPhone application and I wanted to interview them. I ended up interviewing six companies. The company that I chose, ViralMesh, seemed to be the perfect fit, as they had done not only productivity apps, but they had also developed a medical app that won an award from AT&T. We hit it off and by December 2009, i-Inject should be available in the App Store.