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A medical diagnosis leads to an innovative fashion design

Bringing "adaptive wear" into the mainstream

After Emily Levy had a PICC line inserted in a vein in her arm to treat the teenager's chronic neurological Lyme disease, her doctors told her to cover the catheter with the top of a tube sock. 

Levy, then 19, was aghast. "I had just had expensive surgery, was on antibiotics, and my doctors were telling me to protect this life-saving device with a sock?" she recalled thinking. 

Levy, now 25, has three PICC lines that extend all the way to her heart for antibiotics treatment. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Mighty Well, which makes functional and stylish PICC line covers for individuals with catheters who face a range of challenges getting dressed. 

The PICC line covers, designed for people who suffer from a range of conditions, are made from antimicrobial and moisture wicking fabric and wrap comfortably around the arm. 

"A lot of people have cancer or chronic health conditions that maybe don't let them eat and they get their nutrition through a PICC line," Levy said. 

The budding entrepreneur, whose mother worked for designer Giorgio Armani and whose father owned a surf shop, drew inspiration from the surfwear industry to create a practical solution that to her knowledge -- and apparently her doctors' -- didn't yet exist. 

She learned about sportswear fabric technologies that had been developed for athletes and introduced the materials to products for patients like herself. She began applying for grants in college, and by the time she graduated, had been awarded $250,000 for her business. 

Levy likened "adaptive wear," a category of clothing that caters to people with physical disabilities and other health conditions, to the plus-size apparel market a generation ago. 

"We are really giving a face to this new category in the same way plus-size wear ten years ago really wasn't a thing and now it's the norm," she said. 

She says the authenticity of her story has been key to her success.

"If you find that you have a deep passion and purpose for what you are doing, you'll wake up every day to keep pushing forward," she said.