After her brother died from pediatric cancer when he was just 10 years old, Summer Germann vowed to give back to kids in the hospital. Now, she’s providing young patients with more options than the average hospital attire with “Brave Gowns.”
With help from graphic designers, Germann turns hospital gowns into colorful and fun creations. Patients can choose from designs that make them look like mermaids, superheroes, rock stars, baseball players and more.
Germann told The Huffington Post that she felt motivated to do something for kids with cancer and various other diseases that require them to stay in the hospital for long periods of time to honor her brother Mac, who died from pediatric cancer when Germann was 27.
“When Mac died, I promised to myself that I would not take this entire lesson in life for naught and that I would come back and make a difference in children’s hospitals,” she said. “Being a journalism major, I always thought that it would be through children’s books, but that wasn’t the case. When I saw my friend’s daughter, Maya, in the same hospital 12 years later, smiling in a dingy, old gown while being in remission, it all hit me at once.”
The gowns are currently only available online, but Germann hopes to have them sold in hospitals around the world in the future. Aside from adding a bit of fun to the lives of kids in the hospital, the gowns (which are similar to hospital attire available from other companies) also have important features to make their stays easier.
“I know that the designs are fun and make the patients happy, but they are extremely soft with a bit of stretch,” she said. “They are flame-retardant, have dual IV sleeve access, chest port access and full back coverage. A child’s body truly never has to be fully exposed for the nurse/doctor to get to their PIC lines.”
Germann told HuffPost her favorite part of the Brave Gowns process is delivering the gowns to kids, though it is not always possible for her to do so.
“Anytime I step foot in a children’s hospital I feel a sense of peace, like I’m home,” she said. “It must be because it was at a hospital that I got to laugh with and talk to my brother, Mac.”
Ashley Wagner’s son Miles is just one of the kids who has received a hospital gown from Germann. The 2-year-old was born with a rare disease called primary hyperoxaluria type 1 and got his first Brave Gown after his liver transplant when he was 18 months old.
Wagner told HuffPost her son “loves” his gowns and was particular about the one he wanted to wear before his kidney transplant recently. Wagner has also seen how the gowns have affected other people at the hospital and said that she “admires” Germann for her work.
“We have spent so much time in the hospital with Miles and have seen so many children walk the halls in the drab hospital gowns,” Wagner said. “For the younger children, I think Brave Gowns are simply fun. For the older children, I think it helps give them a little piece of their identity back. They aren’t just a patient.”
Germann told HuffPost she is working on new designs as well as a Brave Gowns line for adults and a line of matching tear-away pants for patients who don’t want to only wear gowns. She has also teamed up with the Starlight Children’s Foundation so people can donate to help kids get the gowns.
The Brave Gowns creator also thanked the many people who have made her project possible, from graphic designers to hospital staff to parents.
“The amazing thing is that everyone wants to see this succeed, so they roll up their sleeves and dive in,” she said. “The mentors I’ve gained along the way have been nothing short of miracles.”