A Blanchard Valley Health System Auxiliary initiative will improve patients’ comfort as they recover from surgery – and the idea was the brainchild of a BVHS patient, and associate, whose own recovery was assisted not only by her nurse’s training but a creative mind that made her think of using a tool belt to hold surgical drains.
Kay Alexander, a licensed practical nurse who still works per diem at BVHS, was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2022. After discussing her options, she decided to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction at Bluffton Hospital.
Patients leaving the hospital after a mastectomy – as well as several types of abdominal surgery – must wear drains to catch fluid for at least a week, and often longer. It’s important to find a comfortable way to hold the drains in position.
The usual recommendation is to pin them to one’s clothes. However, Alexander was looking for a more comfortable way to secure them after her January mastectomy.
A friend gave her a tool belt, with pockets for the drains, that she could wear under her clothes. At follow-up appointments, and talking to other survivors she knew, she learned a common complaint was that the pins tear people’s clothing – but people responded to the tool belt with “I never thought of that!”
Realizing this could help other people, Alexander approached Heather Schalk, volunteer services manager for BVHS.
“This was new territory for the Auxiliary, but it matched our mission,” Schalk said.
Not only in Northwest Ohio, but nationwide, this approach isn’t widespread. But in an online search, Schalk found a retailer selling pouches specifically designed to hold these drains. They can be worn in the shower, and Alexander noted they will dry faster than the tool belt.
Alexander shared her story with the Auxiliary board in March.
“Her story’s so moving,” said Cathy Lishawa, Auxiliary president. “And it seemed like such a simple solution, but it can make such a big difference.”
The Auxiliary purchased several dozen pouches, which will soon be given to patients.
Lishawa noted that community members, as well as BVHS associates, make projects like this possible. The Auxiliary funding comes from the proceeds of the gift shops at Blanchard Valley Hospital and Bluffton Hospital, as well as the Nearly New shop, which sells secondhand goods donated by community members.
“I hope it makes people more comfortable as they recover from surgery,” said Lishawa, who herself has been a caregiver. “Those times are difficult.”
She added that being comfortable may even help people heal faster.
Alexander also has another connection to the BVHS Auxiliary. Her mother had been a volunteer greeter at Blanchard Valley Hospital and EasternWoods.
The Auxiliary is always looking for volunteers to make projects like these possible. For more information, visit https://www.bvhealthsystem.org/volunteers