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ASU nurses partner with breast cancer patient to support others

When Kaiser Permanente member Donna Artrip, pictured above in pink, awoke from her double mastectomy at the Ambulatory Surgery Unit in Stockton in Dec. 2022,  she described it as a little party in her room. “The nurses were so sweet and came into my room to deliver a care package. Those moments with the nurses set the tone for my recovery, and put me in a good frame of mind for healing.”

The welcome distraction for Donna was part of a project by Stockton Ambulatory Surgery Unit nurses Katie Marziano, BSN, RN, AMB-BC, and Kristie Silva, BSN, RN, who wanted to provide additional care and support to breast cancer patients.  Donna was the first recipient of the breast cancer care package. (Katie and Kristie are pictured above at left and right of Donna.)

“Any cancer diagnosis is traumatic, but a breast cancer diagnosis can be an extremely emotional experience,” explained Katie.  “And for many, this is just one of many surgeries related to breast cancer, and some long length of stays at our facilities.”

The packet provided to breast cancer patients.
Items of the care package created by Katie Marziano, BSN, RN, AMB-BC, Stockton ASU.

To help ease anxiety around the procedures, Katie led the development of the care packets to increase comfort and provide distraction, as well as enhance home care. The packets are a small pink breast cancer awareness bag that include ear plugs, cozy socks, lip balm, aromatherapy, crossword puzzle books, a specially-designed button-up pajama top, and a special pillow to help protect the incisions following surgery.

“We want our members to feel like we are taking care of them, not just their diagnosis,” said Kristie, who provided post-op care to Donna.

Donna’s favorite gift was the pajama top and the special pockets inside that could hold the surgical drains she had following surgery. The sentiment of the pillow was appreciated, but with her feedback they now provide an improved pillow design that is larger and has a belt so it can be used hands-free.

With the newly designed pillow incorporated, approximately 50 care packets have been provided to mastectomy patients.  Added Kristie, “We are so grateful for Donna’s feedback and collaboration, which allowed us to better support the needs of our breast cancer patients. Her friends have been a huge help for us in creating the pillow pattern and sewing the pillows for our members.”

Donna completed her reconstructive surgery in August, and when she reunited with Katie and Kristie in October for this story’s photo, she said it felt like a big pink bow tying up her breast cancer journey.

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