By Casey Nilsson, HEALTH CENTRAL
Marita Loffredo, the woman behind the “handi-capable” mitten brand Phalang-Ease, keeps a pair of mittens with her at all times, even in the summer. Supermarkets are freezing cold, after all.
The 52-year-old mother of two, who lives in Rhode Island, has a constellation of autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and Reynaud’s are compounded by pulmonary fibrosis and hypertension. She wears a nasal cannula 24 hours a day. She’s the full spectrum of things that could go wrong when you have rheumatoid arthritis, she says with a laugh. Loffredo laughs a lot, and heartily.
She’s been sick a long time — since high school, when she was diagnosed with juvenile polymyositis — but she doesn’t let her chronic, life-threatening diseases dampen her sunny disposition.
New England winters, on the other hand, were a problem. For a decade, she struggled to find a pair of gloves that fit her hands, which have RA-related deformities. So Loffredo, who says she has “enough sewing ability and plenty of arthritis” got to work on a pair of mittens that would make the cold and snow more bearable.
Over the last three years, Loffredo took steps to bring her homemade designs to the public. She partnered with a manufacturer in New Hampshire to develop her Phalang-Ease brand warm winter mittens made from soft, water- and wind-resistant material with large flaps at the wrist. I caught up with Loffredo on the phone to get the scoop on her one-of-a-kind designs.