FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Going to the hospital can be overwhelming for anyone. Between all of the machines, needles and being in an unfamiliar environment, it can be a scary experience — especially for a child.
Ella Casano, a 12-year-old Connecticut girl who regularly receives an IV for a rare autoimmune disorder, recognized the stress that can come in this environment for a kid and decided to create something that would make it less intimidating.
She made the Medi Teddy, a stuffed animal pouch that hides a young patient's IV bag. The back of the pouch is mesh and allows for a nurse or doctor to check on the fluid or medication a child is receiving, while the front is a friendly face.
Casano wants to give them away to children in hospitals at no cost.
“When I had my first infusion, I was surprised and a little bit intimidated by the look of the amount of tubing and medical equipment on my IV pole,” Casano states on the product's website. “As I saw more and more children experiencing the same feelings, I became more interested in creating a friendlier experience for young IV patients.”
The Medi Teddy, a stuffed animal pouch that hides a young patient's IV bag, pictured alongside 12-year-old Ella Casano. (Photo credit: Medi Teddy and Laura Barr Photography / www.laurabarrphotography)
At age seven, Casano was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura, or ITP, a disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. People with ITP have an usually low level of platelets, which are the cells that help blood clot. Most children recover without treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic, but Casano is a rare case in that her diagnosis has never gone away.
As a result, every eight weeks she spends the day at an outpatient clinic getting an infusion of IVIG, a medicine that helps increase the number of platelets in her body. Without the treatment, Casano can't do normal activities like sledding, soccer or riding her bike when the platelets are low.
“Yes, I am proud of her, but more than that I feel happy for her,” her mother, Meg Casano, said. “She's endured so much, missed so much, and tolerated so much and I'm so happy to see her so thrilled that her idea is taking off.”
Casano, who is the oldest of four girls in her family, has already received a patent for the teddy bear cover and locked down a manufacturer.
In an effort to raise money for the 500 unit minimum, her family created a GoFundMe campaign and has exceeded the $5,000 goal. They are also working to make Medi Teddy an official nonprofit with a 501(c)3 application pending.
Meg Casano said she and her husband have been “blown away” by the positive response their daughter's invention has received, adding that her daughter is a “pleasure to parent.”
“We were originally thinking these would go to a few hospitals in Connecticut near where we live, and we haven't quite figured out how to get them all over the country but we will,” Meg said.
The family also wants to make accessories for the bear in the future that kids could personalize, with velcro additions like clothing, sporting gear or hats and bows.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.