BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore wedding gown designer is using her sewing skills to save lives. She’s part of a team of engineers challenged with creating an Ebola suit for doctors fighting the deadly virus in West Africa.

Gigi Barnett has her story.

Designer Jill Andrews’ wedding gowns are timeless, handcrafted creations for one special day. But this is also one of her pieces–designed to protect health workers in West Africa from Ebola and save lives.

“They’re risking their lives taking care of and they’re putting themselves in situations where they are in complete danger,” said Andrews.

The protection gear doctors have now offers little defense against the deadly virus. So Johns Hopkins University launched a challenge to create better suits.

The opportunity was leaked to Andrews in a closed email. She jumped at the chance to join a team of engineers, virologists and doctors who are improving the way health workers take off the gear.

“This suit has to be so simple and so foolproof that we have a really, really hard time making it so simple and easy to use,” she said.

So, she’s gone back to the drawing board several times. It’s all about body design–a subject Andrews knows well.

“It has to fit somebody who’s 6’7″ and somebody who’s 4’9″. They might need to use the bathroom and they’re going to just want to rip this off and get out of this suit. And that’s the last thing that they can do,” Andrews said.

The wedding gown designer says one thing she didn’t realize about taking on the challenge was just how much of an expert she would become on a deadly disease.

“It never occurred to me exactly how unbelievably toxic it was. You think about an infectious disease, but this one is really a winner,” Andrews said.

Andrews says she doesn’t know when her Ebola suit will be completed and then approved, but she is working as fast as possible.

Andrews says another reason why she wanted to take on the challenge to create an Ebola suit is because she has several close friends from Liberia. Her design could be approved within the next few months.

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