Miami Fashion Designer Rene Ruiz Creates Custom Hospital Gowns for Transplant Patients

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz Jackson Health System After 25 years of designing haute couture

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System

After 25 years of designing haute couture and glamorous red carpet gowns for celebrities like Rebel Wilson, Paris Hilton and Sofia Vergara, Rene Ruiz has added a more compassionate component to his drawing board.

The Miami-based designer created a line of hospital gowns to help transplant patients during their recovery process at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Miami Transplant Institute.

“I have always been philanthropic with Make-a-Wish Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society etc., and given back to the community of Miami, but this was unusual, a real chance to make a difference in a patient’s life,” Ruiz, 60, tells PEOPLE.

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System

Three years ago, at a Coral Gables philanthropy event, Ruiz was asked by Jackson Health System’s Chief Marketing Officer Matthew Pinzur to think about designing custom made hospital gowns for transplant patients recovering from complex surgeries.

“Rene got stars in his eyes when we discussed this,” Pinzur tells PEOPLE. “He then spent a lot of time thinking about things that maybe never would have occurred to us hospital people: What kind of fabrics are going to be most comfortable to people who have sensitive surgical wounds? What kinds of closures on a gown are easiest for a nurse, doctor or the patient to open and close?”

Ruiz was so excited to begin the project that he went to Jackson Memorial and interviewed doctors, nurses and transplant patients to see what was needed. He learned about their experiences and listened to their suggestions. He asked what it would take to transform a standard hospital gown into a more comfortable and functional garment for this type of patient.

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System

“Among their suggestions were ideas like adding snaps and slits in appropriate locations, and allowing easier access for the medical teams to check surgical incisions and equipment, such as drains and heart monitors,” Ruiz says.

“I put all of these ideas to work and began designing. I was super excited!”

One of the reasons for his passion stemmed from a coincidence that happened nearly 20 years ago involving an employee at his company.

“In 2001, one of my fashion staffers had a son born with a congenital heart defect and within a week of his birth, he needed open heart surgery,” Ruiz recalls.

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“We cut his onesies and put snaps to make it easier for the doctors to get access through the lines, and ultimately ideas bubbled around in my mind.”

Through the years (the boy is now a college student and on a waiting list for a heart transplant) Ruiz and the staffer, who is now an emergency room nurse at Jackson Memorial, have remained friends.

“She has helped me navigate around Jackson with this project, and to me, it is so amazing that this whole medical thing has come full circle,” he says. “It was meant to be.”

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System

During the past couple of years, the designer has spent a great deal of time researching the type of fabrics that would be comfortable and easily laundered for transplant patients. The result is a cotton poplin blend in a blue denim color trimmed in royal blue which is Jackson Memorial’s color.

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System Rene Ruiz with transplant patient Denise Simpson

“The custom gowns are emblazoned with a JH for Jackson Health inside of my signature red heart icon,” Ruiz says. “The gowns are more comfortable and dignified than the standard hospital gown. They are utilitarian, have inside pockets, special buttons for the lines to go in and out. Not only is it going to make the patient’s life while recovering easier, but also for the nurses and medical staff members who work on the transplant patients.”

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System

The fabric comes from Barcelona, Spain, and was manufactured in Miami by Goodwill Industries of South Florida. Ruiz wanted to get Goodwill involved because he once did a fashion show for the organization, and their work force is made up of mentally challenged and transgender people. “I like to keep jobs in Miami and see these people happily employed,” he says.

In June, the first 4,260 gowns were delivered to Jackson Memorial Hospital, and Ruiz launched “Legacy by Rene” with the one style. “I surprised the patients and medical staff by coming in-person to see my designs come to life,” he says. “It was thrilling.”

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Transplant gowns by Rene Ruiz

Jackson Health System Rene Ruiz with Stephanie Jira, a five-time organ transplant patient

Ruiz says the first patient he observed wearing his gown was a five organ transplant patient from Alabama. The second was a man from Colombia who had a kidney transplant. “They were so happy that I came, and were excited to model the gowns,” he says.

His next design for Jackson will be a general patient hospital gown also to be part of his new Legacy line. But for now, he is enjoying the happiness that he has brought this transplant patient community.

“Designing these gowns has been more rewarding than my other work,” says Ruiz, whose atelier is in North Miami. “The look on the patients faces means everything. I am so happy to have helped make their lives easier after the surgery. The whole project has been amazing and so worth it.”

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/miami-fashion-designer-rene-ruiz-201041962.html