Hug Glove hanging sheet rolls out for safe embrace

A photo of Carolyn Ellis hugging her mom last year on Mother's Day went viral because Ellis had created a body-sized plastic glove hanging from a clothesline so the two could embrace safely. Now, the Guelph, Ont. woman has launched an updated version of the Hug Glove.

'I felt so emotional hugging her,' Ellis said of embrace last year

Guelph inventor Carolyn Ellis developed the Hug Glove, which she hopes could continue to be used by people post-pandemic if they need to self-isolate because of health conditions. (Carolyn Ellis)

It was a hug like no other that Carolyn Ellis had experienced.

Last May, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellis and her husband, Andrew, created a device out of a clear plastic sheet and garbage bags in Guelph, Ont. that would allow her to hug her mother on Mother's Day.

"As soon as I was embraced by her, like we were hugging her, obviously it's mutually beneficial. I felt so emotional hugging her. And I didn't realize, I guess, how much I needed that hug from my mom, not just giving her a hug, but receiving it, too," Ellis recalled.

"So we were crying. We were laughing."

Photos of the hug went viral and were shared by media outlets across the country. Ellis said she started to receive requests from around the world for her to make a similar item for them.

Ellis said those requests made her realize there was a need for something to allow people to embrace in situations where they weren't actually allowed to touch.

So she and her family created the Hug Glove.

The product was launched on Sunday, Mother's Day. It's an updated version of Ellis's creation from last year. It has a clear plastic top so people can see each other, but a fabric similar to hospital scrubs on the bottom. It's completely machine washable and velcro-type fasteners are used to hang it in a door frame.

This photo taken on Mother's Day 2020 shows Carolyn Ellis, left, hugging her mom Susan Watts through a plastic sheet and garbage bags. The creation was hung on the clothesline. (Carolyn Ellis/HugGlove/Facebook)

A hug 'has a real impact'

Ellis says she'd like to see the Hug Glove used in hospitals or long-term care or retirement homes where extra precautions need to be taken. And it doesn't just have to be for COVID-19 - she says the product could be used during flu or virus outbreaks or other situations where patients need to be isolated.

It's also designed to work for people who are sitting, such as in a wheelchair, but also means it could be used in children's hospitals, Ellis said.

Ellis has worked with Barbarian Medical, which is a division of Barbarian Sports Wear in nearby Kitchener, to create the Hug Glove. 

"My goal has always been to get them into nursing homes or to isolated people who maybe have pre-existing conditions or have suppressed immune systems, such as individuals with transplants or who are going through cancer treatments," Ellis said.

She says the ability to hug is good, not just for the patient, but for caregivers and family, too.

"This is just recognizing that both parties need that hug," she said. "It has a real impact. The human touch and connection, the physical feeling has such an impact on physical health as well as mental health."