Waking up after a mastectomy is a little less traumatic for patients at Florida Hospital Flagler since PACU nurse Vicki OHanlon, RN, started sewing drain pouches for her patients.
When I started working with mastectomy patients, I felt very strong empathy for them. Theres a very raw emotion that patients can have when they wake up, OHanlon recalled.
Since creating her first one in January 2014, she has handed out about 100 handmade pouches to patients. I wanted to find something that would make patients more comfortable. Initially, I didnt realize that the Jackson-Pratt drain would remain in for so long. Its like a foreign body coming out of their body, and it can be hard to look at, in yourself or in another person. So I imagined something that could hold the drain in place and make patients more comfortable.
Spark for her drain pouch idea
OHanlon said the idea took root while browsing at a craft fair where she talked to a retired nurse who thought OHanlons drain pouch concept was a good idea. The thought snoozed in the back of OHanlons mind until she designed a prototype for a friend who had undergone a double mastectomy.
She loved it because she could wear her T-shirts and the drains would be hidden, not obvious, OHanlon said. She provided two pouches so her friend could use one in the shower and have a second, dry one to wear under her clothing. OHanlon also provides two pouches per patient.
After her initial success, OHanlon stitched up a profusion of pouches while on call one weekend, using leftover fabric from quilts and projects she sews for her eight grandchildren.
My grandmother taught me to sew when I was little. She was my inspiration, OHanlon said. Now shes teaching her own grandchildren the skill.
Patient response has been positive. Sometimes OHanlon offers the pouches to a family member if the patient hasnt awakened. She remembers how a patients daughter started to cry when presented with a pouch because she saw it was a way to tangibly help her mother post-op.
OHanlon gave inservice talks so PACU colleagues can offer pouches when shes off duty; now colleagues bring in fabric theyve found on sale to boost OHanlons stash. She uses a variety of prints so patients can choose their preferred color.
Recently she was touched by a newspaper photo of a patient to whom shed given a pair of pouches; the woman was wearing her pouch while running in a Pink Army 5K race. She was raising money for local women to get mammograms, OHanlon said.
Praise for her efforts
Vicki has such a big heart, said Robert Davis, MSN/INF, MSHA, RN, Florida Hospital Flaglers CNO. She saw a need for breast cancer patients and decided to take action to fill that need. Shes a prime example of our hospitals mission to extend the healing ministry of Christ and we are so blessed to have her as a part of the Florida Hospital family.
Pouch specifics and processClose up of pouch designed by Vicki OHanlon, RN.
OHanlon, RN, created the drain pouch design based on a young girls fabric purse with a long strap. The simple rectangle is stitched to the strap, then pressed with an iron for a more professional look.
She uses cotton fabrics that handle washing and drying well, and says she doesnt preshrink the fabric. The pouches can be laundered just like regular clothing.
Because she sews quantities of pouches, OHanlon adopted an assembly line approach, cutting out several at a time, then moving to her sewing machine to stitch them. She estimated a pouch is complete within 30 minutes.