Getting Sick: Australia vs. America

Why sick kids are taking on super power ‘alter egos’

It was the sight no parent ever wants to see.

Jason Sotiris' daughter Angela was crying, she had vomited and the tangle of drips and tubes surrounding her bed at The Children's Hospital at Westmead was making her more distressed.

The little girl was in hospital being treated for multi-system Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disease for which she had been given only a 20 per cent chance of survival after being diagnosed shortly after her first birthday.

Finding it difficult to change Angela's hospital gown after chemotherapy due to her chest monitor cables and IV drips, Mr Sotiris knew there had to be an easier way.

Along with his friend Yusuf Muklis, he came up with the idea to create a T-shirt designed to make changing easy and that all the kids would want to wear.

Indyana Wedderburn, 9, wearing the 'Supertee'. Picture: Toby Zerna
Indyana Wedderburn, 9, wearing the 'Supertee'. Picture: Toby Zerna

 

Indyana Wedderburn suffers from Lennox Gastaut Syndrome. Picture: Toby Zerna
Indyana Wedderburn suffers from Lennox Gastaut Syndrome. Picture: Toby Zerna

"The superhero theme empowers the young ones with research showing pretend play, like being a superhero helps a child put a psychological distance between themselves and the problem at hand," Mr Sotiris said.

"It's known as the Alter Ego effect and allows children to step back from a problem and think about it from multiple angles, they can then see different options for a solution."

"Other challenges parents face when their child is hospitalised is keeping their child clean, especially when their child has a low immune system, and the cape transforms into a bib."

Mr Sotiris launched Supertee in 2018 and in the past two years, has been able to give sick kids in hospitals across Australia the inspiring outfit.

The special T-shirt is X-ray and MRI friendly with underarms that open easily for temperature checks and sides which come apart quickly with removable studs.

 

Indyana Wedderburn, 9, with sisters Pypah-Joy, 4, Kylah, 11, and parents Ryan and Megan. Picture: Toby Zerna
Indyana Wedderburn, 9, with sisters Pypah-Joy, 4, Kylah, 11, and parents Ryan and Megan. Picture: Toby Zerna

 

Indyana Wedderburn models the 'Supertee' with sisters Pypah-Joy and Kylah. Picture: Toby Zerna
Indyana Wedderburn models the 'Supertee' with sisters Pypah-Joy and Kylah. Picture: Toby Zerna

Around 5000 shirts have made their way into hospitals across the country, however Mr Sotiris is urging the public to help them get another 8000 to give to sick children.

For Indy Wedderburn, 9, who suffers from Lennox Gastaut Syndrome - a rare form of epilepsy with no cure, her special purple shirt has been a lifesaver while staying at Randwick Children's Hospital all her life.

Most recently, the nine-year-old recently underwent major surgery with a third of her brain taken out.

Parents Megan and Ryan said at their daughter's worst, she had around 1000 seizures a day which is now down to a handful as they live a day at a time hoping for a miracle.

 

Indyana Wedderburn in hospital.
Indyana Wedderburn in hospital.

"The supertee has helped her identify with other kids also that are superhero's just like her. She has gifted out herself personally over 100 to Sydney Children's hospital and she loves handing them out to her little friends in the ward and wearing them together," Mrs Wedderburn said.

"Most importantly it made the stays so much easier for the both of us especially when you have over 50 electrodes glued into your hair, bandaged up and connected to a wall computer so our team can get the important data.

"It was so accessible and easy for me to change her with no disruption to her or her headgear."

Anyone can buy a Supertee pack from their website and Mr Sotiris will distribute it to a child in hospital, not taking a cent from the sale in the process.

 

 

 

Originally published as Why sick kids are taking on super power 'alter egos'


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