Kids rarely see hospitals as a fun place to go; in fact, most of them find the experience to be pretty scary, especially with all those white walls, tubes, needles, doctors you don’t know, and more.
Ella Casano, a 17-year-old from Fairfield, Connecticut, felt the same when she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) when she was 12 years old.
“It’s when her body attacks and destroys its own platelets, so it puts her at higher risk for bleeding or injury, more than most people,” Ella’s mom, Meg Casano, told CNN.
On average, we have between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. People with ITP, however, often have platelet counts below 20,000, but Ella’s can dip well under 10,000.
Though some people can outgrow this disease, Ella hasn’t shown any promise of doing so, so she’s at the hospital every 8 weeks to get an IV infusion. Every time she goes, the experience fills her with anxiety.
“When I had my first infusion, I was surprised and a little bit intimidated by the look [and] the amount of tubing and medical equipment on my IV pole,” she wrote on her 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.”
So, Ella got creative. She cut open a stuffed bear and, with glue gun in hand, created the first ever “Medi Teddy,” a stuffed animal with a pouch for an IV bag.
Changing the Hospital Experience for Kids
Her Medi Teddy drastically changed the whole hospital experience for her, so now she’s on a mission to do the same for other kids. The back of the Medi Teddy is made of mesh so doctors and nurses can still see through it, but from the front it looks like a cuddly teddy bear.
Ella and her mom began working on the concept, consulting nurses and having them try out prototypes so that they can manufacture and mass distribute the Medi Teddy as a non-profit.
With a plan set in stone, the two began a GoFundMe campaign to meet a goal of $5,000 toward the production of 500 Teddys. In just a few days, the met their goal and have raised over $20,400!
Donors are thrilled with the idea and love Ella’s initiative. Some of the commenters also have children with life-threatening illnesses of their own.
“About two years ago I was in the hospital for quite a while,” wrote one donor. “It was very stressful and scary—and I’m an adult. I love that you thought of other kiddos and making their stays better. I will be following the progress of this wonderful idea.”
Ella and her mom don’t plan to make any money off of this endeavor. All money covers the cost of production, and the bears will be distributed for free.
“We knew she had a great idea, but we never expected this level of response,” Casano told Good Morning America. “It’s really been heartwarming to hear such supportive emails from all over the world. And it’s motivating me, personally, to work as hard as I can to make this successful for Ella.”