Deep inside supply closets in patient care areas at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, you will find something that doesn’t quite belong among the syringes, bandages and saline drips: crates of colorful, handmade pillows.
Crafted by members of the hospital’s Auxiliary as well as community members, these pillows may not have a prescribed medical use, but are used frequently by surgical and inpatient staff to provide comfort for their patients. “We use them quite often in surgery recovery, especially for people who’ve had abdominal surgeries,” said Jennifer Siebert, assistant manager, SPCH Surgical Services. “We have the patients hold the pillow against their bellies when they need to cough or take a deep breath. It’s actually a common intervention for us.” They also use the pillows as a comfort measure, maybe to fit under a patient’s neck, or to prop up an arm.
For nearly three decades, volunteers have been sewing pillows for patients from donated fabric. “We give out 20 to 25 pillows each week,” said Phyllis O’Boyle, who chairs the Auxiliary’s Pillow Project. “I can tell how busy the hospital has been by how many pillows are left in the crates.” O’Boyle has been managing the project for the past three years. She and four other volunteers make the bulk of the pillows. In addition, the group also makes stuffed bears for kids who are patients mostly in the Emergency Department. These bears are often distributed by members of the registration team located close by the Emergency Room where they can hear crying and fussy children.
“When I hear a fussy child, I will take them a bear and ask them to please take care of this bear for me since I’m working,” said Brian Claudy, SPCH Admitting registrar. “It’s often enough to distract the child and quiet them down. It’s a relief to the parents too,” he said. Both the bears and pillows are a project Auxiliary members enjoy, and O’Boyle especially.
“This is a very feel-good project for me,” she said. “Patients have told me how much the pillows and bears have meant to them; staff tell me too. It’s just very rewarding to be able to use my sewing talent, my hobby, to help people.”
The Pillow (and Bear) Project runs completely on donated time and fabric. Only the stuffing is purchased. O’Boyle says the group is always in need of more fabric, especially fabric that would appeal to men or children. Also, additional volunteers are needed to help with sewing.
If you would like to donate fabric or inquire about volunteering, contact O’Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Melissa Maxon, SPCH volunteer coordinator, at 541-574-2537.