Although many doctors and nurses now have the option of wearing scrubs in all sorts of fun patterns and colors, hospital gowns haven’t benefited from any sort of fashion update. Although many patients grumble at wearing these flimsy excuses for clothing, one New Jersey woman got so angry that she decided to make a hospital gown she could wear with dignity.
It all started when Brenda Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2008. She’s the first to tell you she was mad as hell – and the fact that, come January, she was expected to do radiation five times a week in a flimsy, unflattering hospital gown just made her angrier. “I wanted some control over cancer,” Jones told AOL News. “I was freezing and I wanted to wear something that didn’t make me feel like a patient.”
The answer, it seemed, was to create a better hospital gown that didn’t just cover her body, but also helped her recover her self-respect. In order to stitch her life back together, she first had to learn to sew. “Looking back, the anger forced me to learn to sew,” she said. “There’s no question how much that influenced me…I spent three eight-hour days learning, but it was kind of a fun thing,” she said. “It kept my hands and mind busy…It was better than screaming and yelling,” she said. “I just felt like I was slapping the face of the hospital.”
Finally, Jones finished her own personalized hospital gown, something she called a Hug Wrap. The prototype was a kimono-style gown made from flannel that she picked out at Wal-Mart (“a bright, bold pattern,” she said). She made the sleeves longer for warmth and comfort, and she made it shorter than traditional gowns so she could leave her pants on during her radiation treatments.
She was surprised at the effect making the gown had on her. “It never occurred to me it would help, but it made me a better patient,” she said. Jones was also surprised at the reaction from other cancer patients when she walked in the first day of her seven weeks of radiation treatment. “People were asking me, ‘Where did you get that?'” she said. “A woman I knew who was going through radiation at the same time really loved it. I told her, ‘What’s the fuss? I’ll make you one.'” She did just that. Her Hug Wraps got a great reaction not only from fellow patients but from the doctors and nurses who treated her. In fact, she came out of her treatment with a calling: to make her Hug Wraps, which she jokes are “louder than cancer.”
“I’ve made more than 400 so far, most of which I gave away, but now I want to turn it into a nonprofit company,” Jones said. She accepts donations to make them – $50, plus shipping, is the suggested amount, but once she gets official 501 CB status (“They tell me any day now!” she said, fingers crossed), she hopes she can get grants and sponsorships to help bring down the cost.
Most of her patients are women, but she is also making versions for men. Jones realizes that she will never get over the fear of a recurrence of breast cancer, but she has seen the disease, or at least her reaction to it, as a positive experience.