Brother's dying wish turns into caring family business

Northeast Ohio is a leader in the healthcare industry, but sometimes the next great idea doesn't come from research or a lab.

It comes from the simple desire to help someone in need.

We met Ron Bauer recently at Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital, where he is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer.

The newest part of his treatment involves the clothes he is wearing.

"It's like nice sweet clothes is all. But for this it's really good because the zippers are built in there for a purpose," Ron said.

The idea of comfort of patients came from tragic beginnings.

Deb Stanzak, a seamstress and fashion retailer, became a caregiver to three members of her family.

Stanzak's brother, Ron Papes, was the first to become ill and need dialysis. Papes told Deb how cold he would get during dialysis because of the short-sleeved shirts he wore to accommodate his port.

Layers of blankets helped but were cumbersome.

"My brother didn't need another puzzle or a deck of cards. My brother needed something to keep him warm and modest and just comfortable for four hours of treatment," Stanzak explained.

That led her to create a port-accessible jacket that allowed Ron to stay warm but offered zippered openings to accommodate his dialysis.

Soon other patients saw Ron's jacket, and began asking for them, too.

Ron urged his sister to make more.

"The weekend he passed away, he said please promise me you will go ahead and make these for patients. They really need them," Stanzak said.

Within the next few years she would also lose her mother to heart failure and her own husband to cancer.

"I had a real hard time going back into dialysis and cancer centers when my family died," Stanzak recalled. "Then I got a thank you note from a patient who told me how much this changed the whole course of their treatment. And I thought 'OK, I have to do this."

RonWear is available online and in boutiques specializing in items for people undergoing medical treatments.

She has a fan in Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America," who wore RonWear to accommodate her PICC line as she underwent treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome.

Roberts even wrote about Stanzak in her book, "Everybody's Got Something."

And when Tom Brokaw recently revealed he is undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, Deb sent RonWear to the retired "NBC Nightly News" anchor.

Brokaw, who still contributes to NBC News, promptly penned a thank you note to Stanzak.


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