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‘Sew’ Easy: Onesies Keep Toddlers Safe

Conquest - Fall 2008

By Sara Farris

Physician Assistant Holly Green stops by to check on a pediatric patient who is wearing Green’s creation, a special onesie designed to protect toddlers from pulling out their central lines.

“Don’t touch.”

Those two words rarely make an impression on any toddler. They can have even less effect on young cancer patients with central lines, whose need to touch and tug often causes these lines to pull loose or come out.

To remedy the issue, Holly Green, a surgical physician assistant from the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, discovered a unique way to adapt a common article of infant clothing to protect these lines.

While central lines make it easier to administer chemotherapy over time, whenever they come out, a pediatric patient must have additional surgery to replace the line, costing thousands of dollars. With each new line or port, obtaining access to the veins becomes more difficult for surgeons, and patients are left with multiple external scars and scarring of the veins.

Discovery: a core value at work

“I came up with the idea after a young patient pulled out his central line seven times in one year,” says Green, who has been a physician assistant for 20 years. “It’s stressful for the entire family any time a 2-year-old has to go into surgery, even if it’s for a minor procedure.”

Using her sewing skills, Green was able to modify a “onesie,” a one-piece cotton garment for babies, that would keep their hands from reaching the central line. Volunteers from Green’s church then took her pattern and have sewn a special opening in the back of more than 200 of these outfits. The hole allows the central line to wrap around and exit at the patient’s back, out of a toddler’s reach. 

This special outfit comes in different sizes, fitting patients from 6 months to 4 years old. The Children’s Cancer Hospital treats nearly 100 infant and toddler patients each year, so the new garment is very useful.

Funding to produce the garments was provided through a safety grant that Green received from the Physician Assistant Foundation.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center