What seems like just a small pillow can prove to be a much-appreciated item for someone with a port-a-cath, the device used to draw blood and give treatments, including intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, or drugs such as chemotherapy and antibiotics. The port is placed under the skin, usually in the right side of the chest.
The Phoebe Sumter oncology clinic in Americus administers about 2,300 chemo treatments per year and with over 350 cancer patients who access the clinic, the Americus Rotary Club wrote for and was awarded a district grant to manufacture and distribute chemo port pillows to help ease the discomfort from seatbelt irritation at the chemo port site. Cancer patients who drive or are driven to and from appointments, doctor appointments, chemo, etc. and who have a port (normally placed on either the left side of the chest above the heart or on the right underneath the collarbone), can experience irritation at the port site, which is often where seatbelt rubs.
Having had personal experience with a port, past president Angela Smith was inspired by a Mother’s Day gift of a port pillow with other care items given to her prior to the start of chemotherapy in 2020. “What seemed like such a simple solution ended up being one of the most useful items I was given during my cancer battle,” stated Smith. The pillow, which attaches to a seatbelt with Velcro straps, can be used on the right or left side depending on which side port is located or whether patient is the driver or passenger.
Americus Rotarians worked with a local woman-owned clothing manufacturer to make 415 chemo port pillows in a number of colors and designs, and logged over 100 volunteer hours over several days. Elena Carne, local designer and owner of T31 in Americus provided assistance and oversight, and allowed use of her facility during lunch and after hours to allow working Rotarians to take part in this worthwhile project. The port pillows are small, but practical items that provide extra comfort during a very tumultuous and emotional time and serve as a free resource for men, women, and children. There were 350 donated to the Oncology Clinic of Phoebe Sumter Medical Center with extras going to other clinics in the region. Americus Rotary is grateful to the Rotary Foundation and for the opportunities that District Grants make possible.