Hospital gowns are designed for practicality — definitely not modesty or style. Lori McCoun of Salisbury had to wear one to receive radiation therapy to treat her breast cancer at Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute. She says she just joking with the radiation therapy staff when she told them, “This gown is horrendous!”
At the time, she had no idea that that one of the radiation therapists agreed with her 100 percent, and was already working on ways to address it.
“When I was in the radiation therapy program at my school in Pennsylvania, a hospital near Pittsburgh had these smocks,” explained radiation technician Shiloh Litton. They are called Dignity Robes, and they allow patients undergoing radiation therapy a more comfortable, modest and stylish garment to use during their treatment.
The group behind the Dignity Robes was founded in Western Pennsylvania in memory of a woman who had breast cancer. Litton decided she wanted to try to get them in use at Peninsula Regional, and the Pennsylvania group sent her a sample.
“I was trying to get this project off the ground, and when Mrs. McCoun mentioned that she wasn’t a fan of the hospital gowns, I thought — she might be the person who can help me kick it off,” Litton says. She passed the sample smock on to McCoun at her next treatment.
“It was wonderful!” McCoun said. “It has pockets in the front, and Velcro on the side, so you can easily open it to the spot where you are receiving the radiation.” McCoun used it through her course of 33 treatments and found it very useful — and she decided she wanted to share the smocks with other people undergoing the same treatment. There was just one hurdle: “I can barely sew on a button,” McCoun said.
Fortunately, her friend Ellen Smith, a fellow teacher at Asbury United Methodist Church’s Asbury Child Development Center, was a member of the church’s sewing club. “They were very kind and decided they wanted to do something for me,” McCoun said. Litton passed on the smock pattern for the group to use, and they were able to create 25 of them, enough for all of the breast cancer and lung cancer patients receiving treatment at that time.
For the sewing club, it was a one-time project, but both McCoun and Litton are hopeful that someone else will take up the cause. “I still have the pattern and am happy to share it with anyone who would like to make more Dignity Robes,” Litton said.
McCoun, who has experienced the benefits of the smocks firsthand, says she was touched by the effort Asbury’s sewing club made in her honor. “I hope others in the community are willing to help, because it does make a big difference to people when they really need it.” She successfully completed her radiation therapy and continues her teaching work.
To obtain a copy of the pattern for the Dignity Robes, contact Shiloh Litton at PRMC’s Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute at 410-543-7000.