Cancer is the number two cause of death in the world. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Advocate Christ Medical Center treats patients every day who suffer from Breast Cancer. After patients undergo breast surgery at Advocate Christ Medical Center here in Oak Lawn, they receive small pillows to put under their arms to help reduce the pain they may feel. The pillows are small enough for patients to carry them under their arms while they walk, help reduce the pain of a seat belt while in the car, and are known for their fun designs, which range in assorted colors.
While these small pillows may not seem like the most revolutionary invention in the world, every day patients tell Breast Nurse Navigator, Patrice Stephens how much the pillows mean to them and how much they help to reduce their post-surgery pain.
The pillows are made by 70-year-old Annie Heidelburg, a previous breast cancer patient of Advocate Christ, who underwent breast surgery in 2011. Annie had been given similar pillows donated by a church after her surgery and decided she wanted to make them “prettier.” Since 2012, Annie has knitted all the pillows breast cancer patients receive after surgery.
“Dr. Barbara Krueger [breast cancer surgeon] is an angel,” says Heidelburg. “I make the pillows because I like to sew, but also because I want to give something back after all Dr. Krueger was able to give to me.”
Heidelberg picked up the hobby of sewing from her mother, who use to sew outfits for Heidelberg and her sisters when she was young. After working nights in the post office for 42 years, Heidelburg says she “appreciates sewing because it gives her something to do at night when she is wide awake.”
Since 2012, Heidelburg has delivered about 100 hand-stitched pillows every month to Advocate. She says her next idea is to stich pillows for kids at Advocate Children’s Hospital who have undergone surgery or who have cancer.
Advocate Christ Medical Center is part of Advocate Health Care, which is one of the nation’s leading health care networks. A not-for-profit, 749-bed, premier teaching institution with more than 1,400 affiliated physicians, Christ Medical Center is a leader in health care and one of the major referral hospitals in the Midwest in a number of specialties, including cardiovascular services, heart, kidney and lung transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics and women’s health. The hospital also has one of the busiest Level I trauma centers in Illinois providing emergency care for more than 100,000 patient visits annually and is a leader in breakthrough technologies, including eICU® (electronic intensive care unit) monitoring, robotic da Vinci Surgery System® and CyberKnife® Radiosurgery. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the medical center among the nation’s leading providers for cardiology & heart surgery and diabetes & endocrinology and rated it overall as being among the top four hospitals in Illinois. The hospital is also recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a Magnet Center. Magnet status represents the highest honor in the nursing profession.