Iowa State Students Design Port Attire for Childhood Cancer Patient

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Cancer treatment inspired one family to make part of the process easier and more fashionable.

Aila Nesbitt, 4, is a regular at the Blank Children's Cancer and Blood Disorder Center. “Over the past year, she`s taught me more about strength and resiliency than I think I`ve learned in my years of life that I`ve had so far," said Dad Nick Nesbitt.

Aila was diagnosed with high risk b-cell leukemia in July of 2018. Mom Amy Nesbitt said, "Thankfully we are over the biggest hump of the worst treatment."

She now comes to the clinic monthly, and nurses typically need to access something called a port, which is surgically implanted under the skin. It allows Aila to give blood samples and get treatments like chemotherapy.

“Through this we learned having a dress was important to take on and off, and she used to wiggle around with a cord because it would get stuck. So, I was like, there`s got to be a better way,” said Amy.

Amy graduated from Iowa State University in apparel merchandising. She worked with ISU students last spring to come with a fashionable solution. “When we met with the students, we kind of said, she likes princesses, she liked pink and then we just kind of gave them free rein to go out and purchase everything. We gave them a budget, and we provided them with that, so they purchased the fabrics,” said Amy.

Aila has three outfits: one with buttons, one with Velcro and one that zips. Amy said, “It`s a lot easier because nothing can touch around her port. So, by this being able to just come off, she`s able to quickly put it on and off in one, and once her tube comes in, she`s able to play a little bit better. It`s just a lot less hassle.”

The Nesbitt family would like to start a nonprofit and eventually pair up students with patients so they can all have their own designs. “Having the kids feel special in a different way,” said Nick.

For now, they are focused on the rest of Aila's treatment, which has more than a year to go. “It`s changed us in a lot of ways. We appreciate things a lot more. You take each day as it comes. You don`t take things for granted. You understand that there is a purpose and reason for everything,” said Nick.

Aila's treatment is scheduled to end Oct. 23, 2020. She is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's girl of the year.

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