Caitlin Shorricks will never forget the pain of seeing her three-month-old baby, Theía, who was treated for cancer last year. She was afraid to lift her daughter for fear that she would accidentally pull the tube to her main artery: “I was terrified. If I wanted to hold her, I had to call a nurse to help.”
Determined to find a safe way to hug her little girl, she teamed up with her former seamstress aunt Eva Newberry to create a baby garment that would tuck the leash safely into a pocket. They called it a “Choob Toob'”.
I have to help other families because nothing else is available.
Now Shorricks hopes to make enough of the garments to offer a free Choob Toob to any kid who needs one. She founded Tiny Teas Trust and has spent over £6,000 designing and making the garments. Initially, customers came through word of mouth, but now Shorricks is inundated with requests from parents.
Central lines, also known as central venous catheters, are often used to painlessly deliver fluids, drugs, and blood transfusions to patients whose veins are too small and vulnerable to other catheters. If a central line becomes detached, it can be life-threatening.
At the start of her treatment, 14-week-old Theía had two tubes dangling from her chest, long enough to get caught in her toes or, worse, her diaper. “I was told never to let the ends come near her diaper — otherwise she could get sepsis,” Shorricks said. But when the chemotherapy ended, Shorricks had to care for Theía at home for several months while the line was still there.
“If she had pulled it, I should have rushed back to the hospital. How was she supposed to have tummy time, learn to roll or sit up? What if it ended up in her diaper anyway?”
Theía is now 20 months old and in remission. Thanks to the Choob Toobs she wore day and night, Shorricks was able to keep her tubes clean and safe.
When Theia’s line was removed after five months, her consultant in Great Ormond Street asked how many line infections and twitching the baby had had at home. Shorricks said she hadn’t had one. “He kind of laughed at me like it couldn’t be true.” So she explained about “the weird top” Theía wore under her clothes. “He said that was fascinating and that I should do something about it.”
Since then she has also made Choob Toobs for older children. “A little girl said she likes that no one knows she has a central line and she can wear whatever she wants. It has given those children back a sense of self.”
Though Theía can’t remember her time in the hospital, Shorricks remains traumatized for being too scared to hug her baby. She never wants another parent to suffer: “I have to help other families because there is nothing else available and I just can’t imagine ending up in that situation again. I cry when I think about what other parents are going through.”
She said 100% of the donations to Tiny Teas Trust go towards the production of Choob Toobs and the printing of leaflets. Neither she nor her aunt, who currently makes the clothes to order, receives any payment.