2004 was a rough year for Deb Papes-Stanzak and her family. First her brother, Ron Papes, was on dialysis for renal failure. Her mother, Mary Papes, was undergoing blood transfusions for congestive heart failure. And her husband, Gary Stanzak, was getting chemotherapy treatments for a rare form of cancer. And Papes-Stanzak was taking care of all of them.
One day her brother complained that he was always cold during dialysis and asked his sister to bring some blankets. In fact, all of her family members going through treatment noted that they would get cold. With a 35-year career in retail fashion and textiles, Papes-Stanzak started thinking about how she could keep her loved ones warm.
“Everyone seemed to have the same problem,” she recalls. “I thought how can I make this better?”
She took a fleece shirt and sewed a zipper into the arm; the dialysis port was easily accessible and the shirt kept Ron warm. “You unzip it, connect and don’t have to worry about blankets,” she says of her original prototype. “The next day Ron said, ‘You’re going to be a millionaire. Everyone wants one of these. This solves the problem.’”
Papes-Stanzak’s first thought was, “I don’t have time for this; I’m taking care of everyone and I have a job.” But then Ron passed away in 2005. “The weekend he died he made me promise I would do something with the prototype I made,” she says.
Papes-Stanzak’s mom, husband and father-in-law also passed away within a year. After her husband died, she took out a shoebox with the materials from her original shirt, and RonWear Port-Able Clothing
RonWear sells zippered jackets and pants to provide easy access to chemotherapy, dialysis and infusion ports. “I created zippers in every area there could be a port,” Papes-Stanzak says. “They are dual-pull zippers so you can zip it right up to the port.” She also sells non-zippered companion wear. The clothing, made from brushed French terrycloth, looks like a jogging suit and is stain-resistant and anti-microbial.
RonWear is sold in gift shops, healthcare institutions and on the RonWear website. Papes-Stanzak has sold more than 2,000 outfits worldwide. She works out of her home and her fulfillment center at US Brands
in Beachwood. She employs five contract workers to help her with the operations.
Source: Deb Papes-Stanzak
Writer: Karin Connelly