Colin Sanders, 11, didn't need help feeling brave and strong as he lugged boxes filled with new hospital gowns and posed as a muscle-ripped surfer dude in Children's Hospital at Erlanger on Wednesday.
But he said that wasn't the case a decade ago, when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma — a cancer that typically affects young children, with tumors forming in certain types of nerve tissue.
The gowns he carried are called Brave Gowns and are designed to empower hospital-bound children and their families, as well as be easier to wear than traditional hospital robes.
"They're not just boring, old gowns," he said, adding he wished Brave Gowns existed during his 14 months at the children's hospital years ago. "They look so fun and they feel comfortable."
Every Children's Hospital at Erlanger inpatient will now have the option to choose between a pink power ranger, strong surfer, princess or male superhero themed robe. Erlanger is the first children's hospital in the country to make the gowns standard issue for inpatient use.
Brave Gowns tie on the side, providing full coverage, unlike conventional hospital gowns, and snaps placed along the arms allow patients to change without disconnecting IV lines.
"I'd always puke when I'd get a gown and have to wait for the nurse to come change me, but you can change these on your own," Colin said.
Colin's mother, Mindy Sanders, worked with the childhood cancer foundation Emily's Power for a Cure to bring the robes to Erlanger.
The foundation, which was established in 2006 by Jonathon and Wendy Ransom of Hixson, and named for their daughter, donated the 600 Brave Gowns to Erlanger.
"It's the greatest Christmas gift I could give in honor of Emily," said Wendy Ransom.
Mindy Sanders said she loves that the robes make kids feel like superheroes, but they're important for the parents, too.
"The childhood cancer diagnosis is hard," she said. "Even though you have a bad prognosis, you need to feel that your kid is super strong."
The kid-friendly gowns will also help normalize the hospital experience for children, and could make things run smoother for the staff, said Ashley Zani, a child life specialist at Erlanger.
"When kids have to put our gowns on, they don't want to," Zani said. "This gives them options and decisions they can make for themselves."
Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6673.