Project Outreach Comforts Backus Patients with “Chemo Pillows”

Katie Suddy, Staff Writer


Chemotherapy, a common treatment for cancer, is often treated through a port, which is surgically placed under a patient’s skin, and allows medication to enter the patient’s veins directly. These ports can be very uncomfortable, and get irritated easily by a number of things, including seatbelts.

Project Outreach director, Jodi Savage, and her student volunteers worked together to try to alleviate this irritation by making pillows for the patients.

“My mother had breast cancer.  Seeing what she went through inspired me to help those who are going through breast cancer or any [illness] that involves a port,” explained Savage.

Debby Kevitz has been a patient at Backus Hospital for approximately 10 years.

“Kindness is the universal message of making everyone feel good. Kindness is magical and it doesn’t take much; and for students to take time out to make these pillows, it doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a huge difference that other people are caring about you,” shared Kevitz.

NFA tenth grader,Alexia Ramos-Labonte, made a few pillows herself.

“When [the chemo pillows] go on their seatbelts, it will stop irritating their skin so that they won’t have to go back to the hospital [to treat] infections,” explained Ramos-Labonte.

Not only do these pillows provide physical comfort to patients,  but they also boost the patient’s spirits in a difficult time of their life.

“Receiving a chemo pillow or any kind of gift supports them, makes them feel loved, and gives them the energy and will to drive forward. They look at the object you’ve given them and it turns into something that they love,” said Lisa Tarvin, a clinical resource leader of the Backus Hospital Infusion Center.

The donations can be a welcome surprise to the patients, especially at this stage in their recovery.

Rebecca Curioso, a registered nurse at Backus said, “The donations make the cold hospital environment feel warmer to them. [Patients] feel like other people care about them and their well-being. [Chemo pillows] break up the cold, sterile environment, and sometimes they add another level of warmth and comfort to a place that can be scary and overwhelming.”

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer affects over 15 million people in America. People who discover they have contracted the disease fear for their lives, and donations and volunteer work often help to alleviate the stress of what they are going through.

“Usually when someone’s getting chemotherapy, they’ve just gotten a diagnosis that they have cancer, and it has the reputation of being something that can kill you; so they’re facing life and death decisions, and it’s scary… It’s heartwarming to think that somebody else out there can identify with them and cares about them. The idea that somebody had anticipated that they might need something like that and then provided it for them before they thought of it makes them feel like somebody has them in mind… They’re very appreciative and they love [them],” said Esther Fish, an ambulatory care center nurse at Backus.

Savage and her students consistently help others in need, and the “chemo-pillows” are just another example of how their volunteerism is doing good in and for the Norwich community.