Hospital stays can be frightening, especially for children. They find themselves in a strange place, often surrounded by wires, beeping machines and strange-looking bags of intravenous fluids. But what if that IV pole smiled back in a familiar and comforting way?
That’s the inspiration that led 12-year-old Ella Casano to found Medi Teddy, a successful GoFundMe campaign to produce and distribute teddy bear covers for IV bags. At 7, Casano was diagnosed with a rare disease that required frequent IV infusions. Over the past five years, she spent one day every eight weeks hooked up to an IV that delivered her treatment.
“When I had my first infusion, I was surprised and a little bit intimidated by the amount of tubing and medical equipment on my IV pole,” Casano explains on her website.
She decided to help other kids deal with their fears of medical treatments, starting with that IV bag. Behind the face of a smiling, fuzzy friend, the IV bag stays hidden but still accessible. It’s tucked into a mesh pouch behind the bear, where medical team members can monitor the contents.
The product didn’t come to life overnight. First, she experimented by snipping the seams of one of her plush animals. She removed some of the stuffing and added both a hook to the top of the head and a mesh pocket in the back. Her first attempt was good, but not quite right. She made several other prototypes. After each version, she asked her nurses for feedback. Soon, she perfected her design.
Ella’s mother, Meg, loved the idea of Medi Teddy and encouraged her daughter to keep working on it.
“She took the initiative over the course of two years to research and write a business plan, make a marketing video, and learn how to build a website,” she said.
Ella Casano embraced both the fun and the tedious tasks that go along with starting a business. She sat in on conference calls, found a company to produce a prototype and even read through legal documents. All that was left to do was raise money. In June, she published her GoFundMe page and quickly exceeded her goal of $5,000. Within two weeks, she raised over $22,000 – over four times her original goal for Medi Teddy.
Not only that, but Medi Teddy got media coverage in major news outlets and websites. As more people learned about Ella, they not only contributed, but shared their own stories. The Casanos were touched by the kind comments that accompanied donations.
“Neither one of us really knew any other families going through this, and the fact that we now have hundreds of supportive emails from families all over the world makes us feel part of such a warm community,” Meg Casano said.
The first shipment of Medi Teddy IV covers is expected to arrive by fall 2019. The Casano family looks forward to seeing Ella’s creation in the hands of every child who wants one.
“That is when we’ll consider all of this a success,” Ella’s mother said.
The experience demonstrated how driven her daughter is, even though living with a chronic disease can feel “like a heavy backpack” you can’t put down, Meg Casano said.
“I tell her it’s OK to want to curl up in bed or not put on a happy face. Ella says, ‘I know, Mommy,’ then, she gets right back to work.”