Spotlight Sunday: Ward + Robes

“I hope that, when someone puts this gown on, that they feel like they’re stepping into their power.” –India Amara, tattoo artist/designer.

Starlight Canada, an organization that helps families with seriously ill children, has taken a step toward identity and individuality for patients. They’re behind a new creative project, Ward + Robes, to bring designer hospital gowns to teens with serious and long-term illnesses.

“I saw Empowerment in teenagers, in a place where they don’t have any,” Said one patient as they tried on a gown.

Gowns are an unfortunate but often necessary factor in hospitalizations. They need to be changed out often, can be destroy, offer easy access to the body for medical professionals, are designed with medical equipment/attachments/ports in mind, and the staff know the gowns have been cleaned thoroughly, in addition to other advantages.ward+robe

But there’s no denying that, like the rest of a hospital, gowns are no fun. And teens, part child and part adult, don’t always see the colorful parts of hospitals designed for children. And for teens with a history of medical problems, they now face  life in the bland, neutral-toned “adult” section of the hospital.

Chasing lifeI remember when I watched the first season of Chasing Life that I loved how the main character got to wear her cozy waffle knits – someone had sewn a row of buttons on the shoulders, so they could be popped open for treatment through her port. It was great that she got to wear clothes that made her comfortable. While that’s sometimes the case for patients, it isn’t always, and this gives teens the opportunity to express themselves during a particularly difficult time in their lives.

A factor in recovery

Professionals have known for some time that there are factors in healing, recovery, and in some cases fighting illness, that are beyond what a hospital room can provide. We know that social interactions and close relationships can play a role. Even just looking at trees and other greenery can speed up and aid recovery.

Patients with serious and/or chronic illness bid farewell to social lives and routine. Identity is often lost to patients. They lose familiarity with their bodies, a foreign feeling after inhabiting it for so many years. Shapes change, hair comes and goes, parts are removed, machines are added, movements are inhibited, and once reliable bodies fail.

And in the face of all that, this movement has given teens the opportunity to be themselves in a clinical, often drably neutral environment. There’s no scientific study  I could find on how keeping clothes, and therefore a part of an identity, can speed up healing. But I can’t imagine that it would be a hindrance.

What would be the best way to bring individuality and brightness to a teen patients day? These gowns are a great start, but aren’t widely available; what’s the best way to bring something like this to life where you are?

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