Who doesn’t hate wearing a hospital johnny? Unflattering thin material, flimsy ties, and flapping rears! Patricia Royall certainly didn’t like them when she was undergoing breast cancer treatment. Challenged to design something better, Patricia created Jazzy Johnnys™ — an entire line of stylish, practical, and environmentally friendly patient wear and accessories, available even for dogs.

In fact, Ziva, a rescued poodle turned service dog and high fashion model, strutted down the runway this week at New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland, sporting a Jazzy Johnnys™ organizer. Well, tail-wagging down the hallway is probably a more apt description!

Most of the other models, including Ziva’s human companion Rorie Lee, are members of Brain Injury Voices, a support group of brain injury survivors. They volunteered to model the different designs to help Jazzy Johnnys™ find some NE Rehab patients willing to participate in a pilot program. The pilot will assess the designs and effectiveness of all the garments as part of a seed grant award from Maine Technology Institute.

These aren’t your run of the mill hospital johnnys. They don’t even look like hospital wear. When Ross Goldberg, Rorie’s “supportive spouse” and fashion show musician, first saw one of the models in the hallway, he didn’t even realize she was wearing a johnny. Ross has on a jazzy wrap jacket and pants. Rorie’s outfit is similar, but in a different color and pattern. She told me she volunteered to be a model because “this is a way to pay it forward and make patients’ lives better.” She’s interested in environmental issues, so says she’s glad to see the products are made from repurposed materials.

The garments are made in Scarborough, Maine by Golden Thread Designs. They’re constructed with an eco-friendly fiber called Tencel. It’s made from wood pulp cellulose that comes from the bark of eucalyptus trees, says Patricia. “It’s skin sensitive, which is especially important to patients having radiation treatments, temperature regulated — they keep you warm when you’re cool and cool when you’re warm, and they’re anti-bacterial — they wick moisture off.  They’re actually the perfect fabric!”

Herb Williams spent three months in the hospital after being hit by a car and says he “wore the regular stuff and was happy to get a robe sometimes.” He likes using natural fibers and says the jazzy pants and kimono robe he’s wearing felt “very soft and comfortable. ”

Catherine Thomes, looking lovely in a blue jazzy v-neck johnny agrees, adding, ” I feel more covered and it’s kind of elegant.” The matching organizer strapped to her walker helps keep her — well — organized.

Any patient who decides to participate in the pilot program will be given his/her own garment in exchange for filling out an evaluation form. NE Rehab’s marketing director Scott Peterson, who is letting a staff member feel the fabric, says the facility is the ideal test market. That’s because many of the patients are not confined to their beds, but are up and about as part of their rehab. Before the show was over, nearly two dozen patients signed on.

It definitely wasn’t just patients who wanted to check out the johnny’s. Model Christine Cornish, who spent all of last October in the hospital recovering from her third stroke, explained their interest to me.  She used to be a critical care nurse, so knows both sides of the johnny issue. “As a healthcare provider, I need to have access to things, and the ability to get the patient dressed or resnapped is very important. As a patient, I prefer this to regular johnnys because this feels more secure.”

Feeling secure and being able to get in an out of any outfit are important to Carole Starr, who was delighted to see how easily the johnny went over her head. It has snaps down each arm, but she didn’t even need to use them.

The snaps on the sleeves and the elastic waist band in the pants were especially useful to Maryanne Tubbs. “I’m paralyzed on one side and this is so easy to get in and out of.”

With a big smile on her face, Bev Bryant, who has written two books about her experiences living with a brain injury, sums up Jazzy Johnnys’ most important benefits. “They make you feel like you’re a real person. It shows a lot of respect for patients to be able to wear this.”

If you want to know more about the johnnys or how to get one, check out the Jazzy Johnny™ website.

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