Sunset Elementary port pillow project offers soft support to cancer patients |

Sunset Elementary port pillow project offers soft support to cancer patients

Sunset Elementary School students take a break from working on port pillows in the Sunset library.
Andy Bockelman

For those who are spending the holidays going through some of the toughest experiences of their lives, staff and students at Sunset Elementary School are offering a little comfort.

Sunset students have spent recent weeks working on the ongoing project of port pillows, a small padded item with velcro straps that can be placed on the shoulder strap of seatbelts.

Port pillows are used for patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy, where a medical port for intravenous flow has been installed in a person’s chest.

In addition to the harrowing effects that such treatments can have on people battling cancer, the port can be especially uncomfortable when riding in a car.

“It’s very painful to put a seatbelt across those ports,” said Linda Newman, a lunch supervisor at Sunset. “Some people even put it behind their back, and that’s just not safe.”

Newman began the port pillow project at Sunset after learning that two of her sisters had been diagnosed with cancer, one of whom passed away less than two weeks after finding out she had stomach cancer.

Newman said she realized there was a way to make patients’ journey a little easier, crafting the small seatbelt cover in a variety of designs.

She brought the items to school, and during time in the Sunset library, students from multiple classes have spent time stuffing them with cotton to add to the padding.

“Whenever she brings them, I put them out as part of our centers for the kids to do,” said librarian Tilila Gunderson. “They usually get stuffed pretty fast. We stuff them faster than she can sew them.”

Third-grader Ridge Reinier said he was especially interested in helping with the project with a 2-year-old cousin undergoing treatments at Children’s Hospital.

“He has a neuroblastoma,” Reinier said. “They’ve been going to Denver a lot.”

Newman donated a bundle of the port pillows to an infusion center in Greeley, where her sister lives.

Newman said her sister is currently holding strong while battling lung cancer, and while she was happy with the gift, nurses were almost in tears with the donations.

“They just leave them out for people with a little sign that says, ‘Because we care,'” Newman said. “They have all kinds of donations, but they never have enough because there’s such a demand.”

Newman said she will provide more of the ports pillows locally to the new infusion center at Memorial Regional Health.

“It’s such a cool thing that the kids can be a part of, seeing that there are people out there who have a need and their health might not be good enough to even go out and buy one of these,” Newman said. “We’ll keep doing it as long as the kids want to keep helping. The kids don’t have to do it, but they want to. They think it’s pretty thrilling.”

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