Robert Burger, MD, Director, Women’s Cancer Center at Fox Chase Cancer Center
Senior Girl Scouts at Council Rock South High School hand delivered their pillows and cases. Pictured (left to right) are Fox Chase clinical nurse specialist, Deena Dell, Jaime Swank, Monica Willson, Maggie Blackmon, Caroline Willson and Fox Chase clinical nurse specialist, Carolyn Weaver. (Not pictured: Angela Healy, Lauren Gross, Allyson DiRenzi, Karishma Pinto, Melissa Cook and troop leaders Janette Swank and Deborah Willson)
At Fox Chase, our breast surgery patients are given special gifts at discharge to help ease their recovery. The gifts are hand-made with love by some very special volunteers, including the local Girls Scouts.
Carolyn Weaver, RN, MSN, AOCN, clinical nurse specialist, is here to tell you more about these special items and the talented volunteers who create them.
Be well, Bob
For many years, volunteers have been putting their talents to use to make life easier for breast surgery patients sent home with drainage tubes. Soft pillows, pillow cases and hand-sewn pouches provide the necessary comfort and convenience these women appreciate. I thought it was about time we acknowledged their efforts publicly.
The pillows have personal notes attached, such as “Thinking of You and Hope You Recover Fast” Girl Scout Troops 2273 and 21174
The Friends of the Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center provide small pillows for patients to elevate their arms following surgery in order to decrease swelling and offer comfort. There are a few groups of volunteers who make beautiful cases for these pillows, along with small pillows (pictured left) which offer a personal touch that patients enjoy. Patients use the smaller pillows to place on their chest, under a seatbelt while riding in a car, to protect the incision site. The Friends also offer stress balls that help to facilitate circulation and decrease swelling in their arm.
Pouches (pictured below) are designed to hold the fluid collection end of the drain and some of the tubing. The patients tie the ribbon around their neck or waist. The pouch particularly comes in handy if the patient is allowed to shower with the drain in place. Wearing the pouch in the shower prevents the patient from having to hold the drain and from having it hang or pull while getting bathed (i.e., keeps the patient hands-free).
Each pouch is hand-sewn using soft fabric with a ribbon tie.
There are several nurses at Fox Chase with connections to seamstresses who have been making these wonderful treasures – Pam Jakubek’s (her daughter’s Girl Scout troop), Lisa Conrad (her mother, Sarah Masser, and her friends Lois Hook and Karen Nicholas), and Caroline McIntyre (her friends lead a Girl Scout troop in Bucks County).
When Caroline underwent breast cancer surgery herself, she was the recipient of a pillow and thought they were a wonderful idea and very helpful after her surgery. “Some of the girls who made the pillows were actually scouts that had been in my troop at one time or another,” shared Caroline. “It was very heartwarming to me to learn of their project. Many people go their whole lives not knowing how many people care about them. Having cancer provided that opportunity to me. I am so grateful.”
Fox Chase nurse, Pam Jakubek, brought the pillow making idea to her daughter's Girl Scout troop, who quickly began to sew! Thanks to (left to right) Kendall Versfeld, Amanda Kurtz, Janine Jakubek, Sarah Merchant, Ellie Beekman, Julianna Tosti, Mary Brookshaw. (Not pictured: Annalyn Runquist and Ellie Cautilli)
About 13 years ago, Fox Chase social worker, Coleen Boyd, met Joy Ozer and Rita Burnstein at a quilting club where they made drainage pouches as a service project. When the “official” project was complete, Joy and Rita continued to make more than 300 pouches a year for Fox Chase.
My colleague, Deena Dell, a breast cancer survivor herself, and I see all breast surgery patients before they are discharged from the hospital. The visit is typically focused on self-care at home. This is also the time we have the honor of giving them the pillows, cases and pouches. It is so rewarding because every patient is truly touched that someone hand-made the pouch or pillow just for them.
One patient just wrote a thank you note to the Girl Scout troop with her heartfelt gratitude. She said it made her smile. It makes Deena and me smile, too, as it is so uplifting to witness the spirit of giving present in so many people … and then to see the look of appreciation on the faces of our patients.
If you are interested in making pillow cases to donate to breast cancer patients, please contact me (Carolyn Weaver) and I would be happy to provide additional information. Thank you to all of these wonderful volunteers—you are truly special treasures!
Carolyn Weaver RN, MSN, AOCN
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Patient Education Coordinator