Ioanna Alysandratou, a pulmonary hypertension patient and President of Hellenic PH,, is the creator of Pongo, the “rare” purple elephant. Pongo has only a tiny little nostril and struggles to breathe. This is one of the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, a rare condition affecting the lungs and heart. Pongo has been used in many awareness campaigns and features in a number of merchandising. All the net proceeds and intelelctual property rights of the products are devolved to the patients of the Greek association for pulmonary hypertension, “Hellenic Pulmonary Hypertension”.
“I was inspired to create Pongo, the rare purple elephant, while visiting a child at a hospital . Due to her low oxygen levels, the child had to put on an oxygen mask, which she found disturbing, not only because it was hurting her face, but also because she didn’t like it as an idea. As I was trying to make her feel better, I put on the mask and the thick cable connecting it to the oxygen supply reminded me of an elephant’s trunk. I shared my thoughts with the girl and managed to convince her to put the mask on. That was the first time I realised that while it might be simple for an adult to wear an oxygen mask things may seem different in a child’s world.
That was the moment when the story of a little elephant started taking shape in my mind.For a long time I was looking for the most suitable character for the “hero” I had thought of. I ended up designing an elephant that was purple a result of lack of oxygen.
When I decided to write the story of Pongo, I tried to think both as an adult and as a child, because this tale is a true story about a fighter that everyone should know. I was sure of one thing, that the elephant had to have something unique. Something that would lead to the rarity from which our disease is characterised. I also had to mention the narrowing of the vessels that pulmonary hypertension causes. So what is more appropriate than the trunk of a small elephant which is its main respiratory organ? I decided that Pongo would have a narrow nostril!”.