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Nurse’s homemade pouches soften mastectomies’ shock

Waking up after a mastectomy is a little less traumatic for patients at Florida Hospital Flagler since PACU nurse Vicki O’Hanlon, RN, started sewing drain pouches for her patients.

“When I started working with mastectomy patients, I felt very strong empathy for them. There’s a very raw emotion that patients can have when they wake up,” O’Hanlon 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 didn’t realize that the Jackson-Pratt drain would remain in for so long. It’s 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.”

O’Hanlon said the idea took root while browsing at a craft fair where she talked to a retired nurse who thought O’Hanlon’s drain pouch concept was a good idea. The thought snoozed in the back of O’Hanlon’s 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,” O’Hanlon 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. O’Hanlon also provides two pouches per patient.

Initial success

Vicki O’Hanlon, RN

After her initial success, O’Hanlon 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,” O’Hanlon said. Now she’s teaching her own grandchildren the skill.

Patient response has been positive. Sometimes O’Hanlon offers the pouches to a family member if the patient hasn’t awakened. She remembers how a patient’s daughter started to cry when presented with a pouch because she saw it was a way to tangibly help her mother post-op.

O’Hanlon gave inservice talks so PACU colleagues can offer pouches when she’s off duty; now colleagues bring in fabric they’ve found on sale to boost O’Hanlon’s 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 she’d 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,” O’Hanlon said.

“Vicki has such a big heart,” said Robert Davis, MSN/INF, MSHA, RN, Florida Hospital Flagler’s CNO. “She saw a need for breast cancer patients and decided to take action to fill that need. She’s a prime example of our hospital’s mission to extend the healing ministry of Christ and we are so blessed to have her as a part of the Florida Hospital family.”

Drain pouch process

Close up of drain pouch

Florida Hospital Flagler PACU nurse Vicki O’Hanlon, RN, created the drain pouch design based on a young girl’s 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 doesn’t preshrink the fabric. The pouches can be laundered just like regular clothing.

Because she sews quantities of pouches, O’Hanlon 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.

By | 2020-04-15T09:27:44-04:00 February 9th, 2015|Categories: Regional, South|0 Comments

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