BY ALEXIA SEVERSON
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – A new kind of apparel geared toward people undergoing medical treatments will now be displayed and sold in Las Cruces, thanks to an El Paso resident and former Las Crucen who saw a need for the clothing after being diagnosed with kidney disease and starting dialysis therapy.
Bernie Serrano, 49, CEO and founder of Zip It Up Convertible Medical and Outdoor Apparel, opened Zip It Up Showroom and Retail at 2645 Missouri Ave., Ste. 2. on Feb. 20. The apparel is also sold at BEK Medical stores in El Paso and Dallas, Texas.
“Hopefully Las Cruces will be accepting of it,” Serrano said of the showroom and retail space. “I hope that (the clothing) will change their lives like it did for me — give them back their life, like it gave me back my life.”
The idea to create Zip It Up apparel was born from Serrano’s personal experience with dialysis, a process in which a machine performs tasks normally done by healthy kidneys, such as removing waste, salt and excess water from the blood. Serrano began receiving treatment three years ago, visiting DaVita Americas Dialysis in El Paso for four hours, three times a week.
Like many dialysis patients, these visits quickly became the hardest part of Serrano’s day. The rooms were kept at cold temperatures, causing him to shiver and ultimately feel very tired. In addition, according to the National Kidney Foundation, during dialysis, “blood is circulated outside of the body and cooled,” which can cause an uncomfortable chilling effect as it is returned to the patient.
But wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jacket was impractical since Serrano’s dialysis access, or entry point, was on his upper left arm, which needed to be kept exposed during treatment. Shortly after starting therapy, he began looking online for something he could wear that was warm, yet technician-friendly but found nothing. That’s when he decided to take action.
Over the next two and a half years, he started purchasing shirts and taking them to his seamstress to make the necessary alterations.
“I got a prototype done and it worked well for me,” Serrano said.
The prototype was the design that eventually became Zip It Up’s first product, a T-shirt with a hidden zipper that could be unzipped to convert the shirt’s long sleeves into short sleeves when needed.
Serrano said wearing the shirt made a huge difference. During his four hours of treatment, he wasn’t shaking from the cold anymore. The technicians liked the shirt, too because it didn’t disrupt treatment.
“After treatment (wearing the shirt), I felt good, and I was able to go on living and do what I had to do. It gave me back my life. I wasn’t so tired. I didn’t have to go straight home and go to bed,” Serrano said.
After giving the shirt a test run, Serrano was eager to share it with other patients. But it wasn’t until he received several compliments on the shirt by the El Paso dialysis center staff, that Serrano began thinking about turning his product into a business. With the staff’s encouragement, Serrano took the necessary steps to get his convertible apparel patented.
“To this day, I think to myself, it seems like something so simple, but yet, the need is so great,” Serrano said.
Serrano said he hopes his apparel helps patients want to keep receiving treatment as they wait for a kidney transplant.
“The treatment is the worst part of our disease,” he said. “This garment makes the treatment so much better; it makes it OK, and hopefully, it will make it to where they don’t want to give up.”
Several patients have already benefited from Serrano’s Zip It Up apparel, including El Paso resident Paty Damas, who is also a patient at DaVita Americas Dialysis.
“The T-shirt zips up on my left arm, so I can just unzip it, and they do the dialysis and my upper body is covered,” Damas said.
Damas, who met Serrano while wearing her Zip It Up shirt, said she is thankful he had the idea.
“Not only does it help him, but all the other people who are using it,” she said. “To me, it’s very helpful. I really like my shirt. I would highly recommend it to other people because it helps keep them warm.”
Along with dialysis, Zip It Up apparel is ideal for many other medical treatments, such as chemo and infusion therapy. The company has also expanded into the realm of outdoor apparel, with clothing geared towards fishing, hunting, construction and more. All Zip It Up apparel is made in El Paso, Serrano said.
For information about Zip It Up, call 833-947-4887 (ZIP-ITUP), email email@example.com or visit www.zip-itup.com.
Alexia Severson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.