Alyssa Zeldenrust, who had ostomy surgery to treat her Crohn’s disease, uses a variety of cover-ups that range from basic and utilitarian to lacy and lovely, which make her feel “sexy and pretty.” At right, she is wearing a comfort sleeves she created to disguise a PICC line in her arm.
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Zeldenrust
Alyssa Zeldenrust, diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 14, underwent various treatments before having ostomy surgery, which treats certain digestive or urinary conditions by creating an opening from inside the body to the outside, requiring her to wear an ostomy bag.
For Zeldenrust, now 30, having something pretty to cover her bag is an important part of her well-being.
“A pretty ostomy bag cover can be an important coping mechanism,” says Zeldenrust, whose covers include printed fabrics; a belt-like support band for physical activity; and lovely lacy ones “that make me feel sexy and pretty, which is important because having an ostomy bag really affects body image.”
Zeldenrust is not alone in having a medical device that may be uncomfortable or unsightly.
Luckily, makers are crafting medical device covers that are fun and functional, pretty and sexy, blinged and personalized. There are covers for everything from ostomy bags and PICC lines to slings, eye patches, even baby helmets, all easily found on Etsy.
“These cover-ups make me feel empowered,” Zeldenhurst adds. “I feel like I am taking control of my situation and refusing to let my medical conditions get me down.”
Here are a few other device disguises:
Miel Barman makes fabric ostomy bag covers in a variety of colors and styles. She says the covers are more comfortable against the skin and “bring a little joy to peoples’ lives.”
Photos courtesy of Miel Barman
Miel Barman’s grandmother was so embarrassed at having a colostomy bag that she wouldn’t go out much. When Barman learned about a nurse who made fabric covers for ostomy bags, Barman was intrigued.
“I love to sew and was so happy to find a product I could make that would help people feel better about themselves and their situation,” Barman says.
She opened her Etsy shop, ThizNThatSewing, in 2017. When sales blossomed, Barman realized “this was an important product to a lot of people. (A pretty cover) gives ostomates confidence to go out in public.
Barman, who has sold about 1,550 covers, is gratified by customers who report that not only does a cover add comfort, but “it makes them feel better about a difficult situation. I enjoy knowing that I am bringing a little joy to peoples’ lives.
It’s hard to see your baby in a medical helmet, but the painted and personalized head gear by Paula Strawn can make a difference between getting a pitying “oooh” or an appreciative “ahhhh” from friends, family and strangers.
Photos courtesy of Paula Strawn
Heads Up and Adorable
Parents are often understandably distressed when their babies must wear a helmet to correct plagiocephaly, a common, treatable disorder that causes flattening on a baby’s head. But artist Paula Strawn turns sympathetic “ooohs” into appreciative “ahhhs” with personalized painted helmets.
“A fun and friendly design (on a helmet) is an attitude changer,” says Strawn. “Instead of people saying ‘oh, poor baby,’ they say ‘oh, how adorable’ when they see a cute design. It gives parents a chance to have a conversation about the helmet instead of getting pity smiles.”
Strawn painted her first helmet in 2003 for a friend’s granddaughter. Even the child’s doctor was delighted. “He felt that painting the helmet was fun and friendly and improved the parents’ attitudes about the helmet.”
She has since painted more than 3,000 helmets. Themes include aviator, sports teams, cartoon characters, flowers, hearts and more, using water-based non-toxic paints. Designs take 6 to 12 hours to complete with prices from $140 to about $360.
Strawn finds that the design process itself is often therapeutic.
“Sometimes a parent starts off very sad about their adorable baby having to wear a helmet, wondering what people will think and how it will work. Then we start talking about the design; maybe look at fonts to add a personal touch. By the end, the parents are excited and can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out.
“I’ve had parents cry because their baby has to wear a helmet, then cry with joy when they see the design the baby will be wearing. It is so fulfilling, joyous, amazing and humbling to be able to do this.”
Whether you are going to a fancy wedding or just hangin’ in the halls of junior high school, a fancy, funky, or fun sling can make your outfit and raise your spirits. Pamela Noto made her first sling cover for her then-13-year-old daughter and has since sold more than 2,800 fashion-forward covers at her Etsy shop, Fracture Fashionz. Oh, and she also blinged a medical boot.
Photos courtesy of Pamela Noto
Bling Your Sling
Pamela Noto’s daughter, Megan, was 13 when she broke her arm playing soccer. After surgery, Megan received a one-size-fits-all sling that was “ugly, oversized, blood-stained and uncomfortable,” says Noto. Megan was not happy.
To cheer her up, Megan’s grandma copied the sling shape and made Megan a snazzy model fit for a fashionista. The pretty floral sling was such a hit that not only did Noto make several other slings for Megan, but in 2015 she opened an Etsy shop, Fracture Fashionz, and has sold more than 2,800 fashion-forward slings, from kid-friendly patterns to glitzy sequin or lace. Occasionally, she’ll get a custom request for a walker or wheelchair bag and she recently blinged a woman’s walking boot.
Richelle Shadoan’s father was quite the star when he rolled into a doctor’s office sporting a flame-print oxygen tank cover. “He hated his ugly tank,” says Shadoan. “He got a big kick out of the flame cover. He liked a bit of flash.”
Others did, too, and several women – “excited to personalize their oxygen tanks” – placed orders. “Oxygen tanks are quite ugly, so to cover them with something that fit their personality or matched their outfit, made these women feel more put together.”
Richelle Shadoan’s father was quite the bon vivant scooting around once his ugly oxygen tank was disguised under a wildly patterned fabric cover made by Shadoan.
Photo courtesy of Richelle Shadoan
Bosom Buddy to the Rescue
Wearing a seat belt after a mastectomy can be tough because a seat belt hits all the wrong places, often painfully. The Bosom Buddy, a soft, padded seatbelt attachment, helps.
The idea started with a group of sewists who created a padded seat belt cover for a friend’s daughter. The cushion was such a hit that the group made more to donate to those beginning breast reconstruction surgery.
Annie Unrein of byAnnie™, who developed the Soft and Stable™ material the sewists use for the cushion, and her team loved the idea and created a pattern that became the Bosom Buddy. The pattern is a free download on the byAnnie website.
Last October, byAnnie kicked off the #SewPINK™ campaign to raise awareness and support for breast cancer programs. A blog hop with about 30 participating sewists raised $2,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The soft, comfortable Bosom Buddy slips over a car seat belt to give comfort to those who have had mastectomies. This free pattern was developed by Annie Unrein of byAnnie.com.
Photo courtesy of Annie Unrein
The Eyes Have It
When Paige Brattin’s daughter was 5, she was found to have a host of eye problems, including amblyopia (commonly called “lazy eye”) and an inflamed optic nerve. After ruling out a brain tumor, Eddy was prescribed an eye patch, which was uncomfortable and definitely not fashion forward enough for this girl. So began Brattin’s journey to find patches that were more comfortable, easier to wear and remove, fit better, and were, well, cooler.
“(Adhesive) eye patches hadn’t changed in 30 years,” Brattin says. “There are so many different types and styles of bandages, it seemed there should be a better eye patch.”
Brattin spent three years researching, sourcing, and testing material, looking for a more breathable patch substance; a less-aggressive, less irritating adhesive; a better shape that hugged the eye socket and didn’t interfere with eyelashes; sizable for anyone from infants to adults, and, naturally, with hipper designs. When she had her answers she filed a patent and launched See Worthy Patches™ in January 2019.
Today’s 19 designs include animal eyes, unicorns, pirate, pizza, and even one you can decorate yourself.
Paige Brattin worked for three years researching and experimenting to create a better adhesive eye patch for children. Her See Worthy Patches(TM) use breathable material, a less aggressive adhesive and come in cool designs.
Photos courtesy of Paige Brattin
“Almost daily I get an email from a parent thanking me for making life better,” says Brattin, who advocates for early vision screenings and donates a portion of her profits to vision-saving programs.
Roberta G. Wax
Roberta Wax is an award-winning journalist and imperfect crafter. A former news reporter, her freelance articles and projects have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, from the Los Angeles Times and Emmy magazine to Cloth Paper Scissors, Somerset Studio, Craftideas, Belle Armoire, etc. She has also designed for craft companies. Although she has no art background she was a crafty Girl Scout leader. www.creativeunblock.com