Over a million ROHO® cushions are used around the world each day, but how many people know where the name came from?
Well, it’s kind of a sweet story. The inventor’s name was Robert Henry, but he signed documents R.H. As he looked at his name, he saw the periods were like little O’s, so he spelled it out as ROHO. It’s like a personal signature on each and every cushion!
So, who was the man behind the invention? Robert H. Graebe Sr. was not a doctor or clinician, but an electrical engineer who saw a healthcare problem and came up with a solution unlike anything else available.
But it wasn’t a quick fix. Back in 1957, Graebe was an electrical engineer at McDonnell Douglas. During his time working on a blood analysis equipment project for a hospital, he found that patients were developing dangerous pressure injuries simply because of other health conditions which forced them to sit most (or all) of the time. He was disturbed that by simply sitting, these people were being hospitalized, and Graebe was determined to find a solution.
Over the next two decades, Graebe spent his free time in his basement trying to invent a new, pressure-free surface that could eliminate (or at least reduce) the development of pressure injuries for those who had to spend their lives in wheelchairs or lying down. Once he figured out the unique concept, then he had to figure out how to build it!
1971 ROHO HIGH PROFILE Cushion
DRY FLOATATION® technology is a ROHO product exclusive and is based on hydrostatics – the main principle of it is Pascal’s law, which states that the pressure applied to the surface of the fluid is transmitted uniformly throughout the fluid in all directions. So, by studying how the fluid exerts even pressure on an immersed body, the idea behind ROHO cushions was born.
Water also shapes perfectly to the body and can match your individual shape. Graebe developed air cells that are specially developed and mimic these properties of water (hence the ‘floatation’ part, except you’re kept dry). These flexible air cells provide constant and even forces across all contact areas with the body, while ensuring you remain safe, stable, and in the right position.
What truly sets a ROHO cushion apart is the airflow between the cells allowing the cushion to adjust and adapt to the individual, providing a comfortable seat that accommodates new positions, daily movements, and body changes over time. Over the years, ROHO has expanded beyond manufacturing a variety of standard and custom-size wheelchair cushions, and also make accessories, back systems, and support surfaces.
Let’s get back to Graebe…
When he was confident enough that this new wheelchair cushion design was solving a really critical need, he ultimately left his job as an electrical engineer and started ROHO in 1973. He started literally making a few cushions a day, proving that ROHO cushions worked and would benefit those who are going through the rehab process.
Graebe launched the family-owned ROHO company in East St. Louis before moving it to Belleville, IL in 1982. And that’s where it remains today, employing about 230 people and producing over 1,000 cushions each day! They export to over 70 countries and each ROHO is ‘Made in the USA’. It’s come a long way from those early days selling cushions one at a time.
In 2015, Permobil acquired ROHO. The consolidation made perfect sense: one was making the leading power wheelchair and the other was making the leading seating system on the planet. Not only did they sell through the same channels, and have the same end users, but they went through the same prescriptive process. Beyond those similarities, Permobil and ROHO shared a history of being a family company, with a culture of excellence and a clear vision to help individuals in need, with innovative technology.
ROHO has dedicated its efforts to the research, engineering, and manufacturing of air-cell based cushions, making ROHO cushions the industry standard in skin and soft tissue protection. The proof of performance is clear in over 90 scientific and clinical studies verifying that a ROHO DRY FLOATATION cushion assists in healing, treating, and preventing pressure injuries, including deep tissue injury.
Thanks to the ongoing trust and support of clinicians, providers, and end users, ROHO is thrilled to be celebrating 50 years of innovation and excellence!
Marketing Communications Manager
Sheri-Lynne is a communication professional with over 20 years of experience in writing, editing, marketing, and graphic design. She studied Journalism and Corporate Communications and is fondly referred to as Eagle Eyes for her keen proofreading skills. Sheri-Lynne was introduced to the complex rehab industry when she joined Permobil in 2017.