Cancer Patient’s Husband Invents Device to Help Others

Clearing drainage tubes for patients has gotten easier, thanks to a breast cancer patient’s husband and his invention, Tube-Evac.

After surgery care

Clearing surgical tubes is a common procedure in wound care, and it often comes as second-nature for clinicians. But it can still be time-consuming and complicated. So imagine how daunting and difficult it is for friends or family members who have never done such a thing, and are responsible for a loved one’s after surgery care.

Thanks to a loving and very creative husband, there is now a product available that makes the process of clearing tubes easier and faster. It’s called Tube-Evac, and we are happy to share its story.

The Bad News

In April 1998, Linda Shaffer got the kind of news nobody wants to hear: Stage III breast cancer. The diagnosis was the beginning of a long and arduous journey, beginning with a bilateral mastectomy. During surgery, four drainage tubes were placed at the wound sites – each needing constant drainage and care during the following two-weeks of recovery at home. Linda and her husband, Vance, soon realized the difficulties that came with such responsibilities.

“The tubes were very intimidating,” says Vance. “Several times I forgot to put the vacuum back on the bulb after emptying it. We were very nervous about it … and while we succeeded in clearing the drains as required, we found this to be the worst part of her after surgery care.”

After nearly seven months, Linda completed chemotherapy and radiation, and opted to have breast implants. After 10 years, however, the implants failed, and she underwent yet another surgery to have them removed. Once again, drains were put in. But this time, things would be different.

A Big Idea

Determined to make clearing drains easier, Vance came up with an idea. It started with a pair of water pump pliers in his garage, some welded bolts, brass sleeves and a few pieces of aluminum. The final result was a crude invention that worked perfectly for draining tubes. And it was the beginning of what is now known as Tube-Evac, a device that makes it easier to care for patients.

“I love helping people, and I know that the idea for Tube-Evac device came as a blessing – to be used as a way to help patients with their surgical drains,” Vance says. “I remembered well how we struggled with Linda’s drains, and I wanted to make it easier for others who were suffering through similar circumstances.”

Although Linda lost her battle with breast cancer in 2014, Vance continues to look for ways to help others. In fact, a portion of Tube-Evac proceeds go to various charities, including Lighthouse for the Blind, and Mayo Clinic breast cancer research, all in memory of his late wife.

How it Works

Tube-Evac Device


Since the initial prototype in January 2008, Tube-Evac has evolved into what it is today: a small device similar to a clam shell, with channels running lengthwise down the center. When shut, the two internal channels form a complete circle for the tubing to pass through. Two rollers are in place to squeeze or strip the drain, and the hinges on one side make it easy to open and close.

How does it work? The surgical tube is placed securely inside the clam shell, pulling the Tube-Evac device away from the body while the other hand holds the surgical tubing in place. As the tubing passes through the rollers in the clamshell, the fluid is forced in front of it. The fluid is then pushed into a collection bulb, to be measured and emptied on a regular basis.

Tube-Evac Advantages for After Surgery Care

Some of the advantages of using the Tube-Evac device for after surgery care, according to manufacturers, include:

Easy to use. Elderly patients – or those with arthritis – find it much easier to use since there is no squeezing involved. Also, it is designed to open automatically when pressure is taken away.

Saves time. Providers can go into a patient’s room and have the surgical drain cleaned in a few seconds, saving valuable time for other patient needs.

No vacuum, no problem. If the patient forgets to put a vacuum on the suction bulb for the tubing, the Tube-Evac device will still push the fluid into the bulb and create a vacuum in the line to help evacuate more fluid from the surgical site.

Simple design. The Tube-Evac device can be used with either hand, so that the patient or caregiver can remove fluids on either side of the body using which ever hand is convenient. There is no front or back to the Tube-Evac device. Either end can face either direction.

No stretching. The Tube-Evac device is designed to keep a constant pressure on the tubing at all times, so it does not stretch or deform the tubing.

Peace of mind. Wound clinicians can show the patient how to use the Tube-Evac device, so when the patient goes home, both patient and caregivers have peace of mind knowing how to clear the surgical drains.

To find out more about this device, visit the Tube-Evac website.

What do you think?

Have you had patients express concern about draining surgical tubes at home, and do you have any tips that you share with them? Have you used the Tube-Evac before, and what was your experience? We’d love to hear about your experiences, so please leave your comments or reactions below.

Wound Care Education Institute® provides online and onsite courses in the fields of Skin, Wound, Diabetic and OstomyManagement. Health care professionals who meet the eligibility requirements may sit for the prestigious WCC®, DWC® and OMS national board certification examinations through the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy® (NAWCO®). For more information see

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