“I was determined to live”: Cardiac patient Olivia defying the odds to return to help the organisation that saved her life | News

“I was determined to live”: Cardiac patient Olivia defying the odds to return to help the organisation that saved her life

 Olivia Olivia Burns was born with a severe heart defect that meant she might not survive into adulthood. But after defying all the odds, the 24-year-old fashion graduate has started her own business designing sustainable, modest hospital gowns to improve patient experience. 

Olivia said: “I spent much of my childhood at the Children’s Hospital and had around 21 surgeries, including a really rare open heart surgery called a Norwood procedure. I was told I was the 13th patient in the NHS to have this surgery.”

Olivia was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means half of her heart had not developed properly. The Norwood procedure is the first of three surgeries to reconstruct the heart in patients with the condition.

Olivia explained: “It was a lot to go through as a young person. I was in hospital for a long time and didn’t have a normal childhood. I was also growing up knowing there was a chance that the surgery would not work. However, I’ve always been very determined from a very young age. Even when I was living on the wards, whatever was thrown at me, I knew I was going to overcome it.

“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to survive. I was determined to live into adulthood and use my experiences to help others.”

Olivia overcame many hurdles and after her final open-heart surgery was successful, doctors told her to “go and enjoy your life”. And after graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Fashion Institute, her patient-wear business Hypoplas was born.

Drawing from her own patient experience of wearing traditional hospital gowns that were not fit for purpose, Olivia was inspired to develop a new gown and recovery wear range to improve the patient journey for her final project.

  Olivia said: “I undertook research with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust which revealed that traditional hospital gowns were inefficient for both patients and clinicians. 

“We found many hospitals were ‘double gowning’ where patients wear two gowns at once with one reversed to preserve modesty, meaning double the laundry and using double the carbon. We also found a lot of gowns are thrown into textile waste after being cut in emergency medical procedures.

“To address this problem, I’ve designed a hospital gown that preserves the modesty of patients, is sustainable, and cost-effective for healthcare organisations alongside a recovery range for patients to allow them to feel more confident and comfortable during and after their procedures.”

hospital gowns

The Inversus hospital gown wraps around the whole body to preserve the modesty of patients. Made from high-quality materials that are soft and breathable, the gown can withstand a 20-year washing cycle and purposeful access points also help to minimise textile waste. With the gown being designed to wrap around the whole body, only one gown will need to be laundered per patient, helping to reduce carbon footprint.

Olivia has recently been accepted onto the NHS Patient Entrepreneur Programme where she will receive support through mentoring to develop the gown on a national level, and received funding from Innovate UK to help launch, develop, and scale the business.

Olivia said: “I always wanted to bring this gown to the NHS to give back to the organisation that saved my life.”

Olivia also credits her time studying at Manchester Met in helping her to set up her business and develop it to where it is today which included valuable support from both Manchester Fashion Institute and Innospace, the University’s start-up incubator.

Amanda Baugh, Head of Innovation at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are so proud of Olivia in creating a company that is focussed on making things better for other patients. As a female innovator she is an inspiration to others and we think other young entrepreneurs will be keen to follow in Olivia's footsteps.”

Sam Chandrasekara, Senior Lecturer in Fashion Business at Manchester Met, said: “Olivia embodies the spirit of innovation, tenacity, and resilience that we nurture and deeply value through our fashion business and management degree course. I’ve had the privilege of watching Olivia evolve from a passionate fashion student into a healthcare sector entrepreneur which is a testament to the real-world impact, social responsibility, and confidence we instil in our students. 

“Through Hypoplas, Olivia has turned her challenges into a pioneering business model which sets new standards in patient wear. Her journey showcases the power of commitment, creativity, and a deep understanding of user needs, leading to meaningful advancements in the field. We are immensely proud of Olivia's pursuit of her ambitions and her achievements.”


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