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Cardiac Patients at Chandler Regional Get Pain Relief from Specially Made Heart-Shaped Pillows


In honor of American Heart Month, volunteers at Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center are delivering hand-sewn heart-shaped pillows to patients recovering from cardiovascular surgery. Used as a tool during patients’ recovery, hospital volunteers say they expect to distribute more than 50 of the specialized pillows by the end of this month.

Chandler Regional has one of the Valley’s premier cardiology programs and has achieved special designation as a Cardiac Arrest Center by Arizona Department of Health Services and has been named an accredited Chest Pain Center by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

Retired seamstresses from Sun Lakes, Jo Plozsaj and Joan Siciley, have spent nearly a decade volunteering and dedicating their sewing ability to Chandler Regional.

“I was first asked to sew these pillows in 2005 when my husband was a patient here, recovering from heart surgery,” recalls Plozsaj who volunteered at the hospital for about a year before the opportunity presented itself. Since the project began, the volunteers have sewn more than 4,000 heart-shaped pillows for hospital patients.

Cardiac surgery is often invasive and associated with a long, painful recovery. Studies have shown that even with medication, the most common patient complaint after cardiac surgery is pain from coughing and moving.

While it can be painful, consistently clearing the lungs of mucus lessens the chance of infection and prevents the development of scar tissue. The special “heart pillows” provide relief when hugged during deep breathing exercises necessary for recovery.

“These pillows are much firmer than a standard pillow, because of the way the patients use them,” says Plozsaj. “Having sewn all my life, I jumped at the chance to help and have been making things for the hospital ever since.”

Siciley says the heart pillows also can provide emotional comfort to patients in their time of need. “That’s what keeps us going,” Siciley explains. “Jo and I both agree, we have to do something. We can’t do just nothing and we are happy to help these special patients.”

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