The SaskTel Pioneers Heart Pillow Project Celebrates 30 Years in Regina

The SaskTel Pioneers Heart Pillow Project Celebrates 30 Years in Regina

May 29, 2023

It's safe to say that both patients and volunteers hold the SaskTel Pioneers Heart Pillow Project near and dear to their hearts.

On April 26, 2023, volunteers gathered at the Tele-Pioneer Activity Centre (TPAC) in Regina to help manufacture approximately 300 pillows for this year's edition of the Pioneers Heart Pillows Project – in partnership with the H.D.A. Allen Life Member Club and Regina General Hospital.

The project involves cutting, stuffing and hand-sewing red heart shaped pillows for use by patients at the General Hospital who are recovering from open heart surgery.

"Patients hold the pillows against their chests to alleviate pain when they cough and can also be used to protect their chests when using a seatbelt," said Andrea Hasz, Heart Pillow Project Coordinator with the Pioneers in Regina. "And, if the patient is out for a walk and requires help, the silk-screening print on the pillow helps indicate to members of the public that they have recently had surgery."

Andrea has been involved with the project since it launched in Regina back in 1993, but she became even more passionate about it when her brother went through a successful triple bypass surgery in 1994 at the age of 40. He passed away in September 2011.

"I think this project is important because almost everyone, including myself, knows someone who has had open heart surgery, whether it be a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbour," Andrea said.

The project is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2023. In Regina alone –just over 7,500 pillows have been made by volunteer groups comprised of SaskTel Pioneers, SaskTel employees, their partners, friends, family members and SaskPower employees, among others over that time.

However, without the help of staff at the Saskatchewan Health Authority, this project would not be the success that it is today.

Koreena Kunz, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Saskatchewan Health Authority, works with Andrea to arrange for drop-off at the hospital once the pillows are ready to be distributed at the General Hospital.

"Both staff and patients are very appreciative of the pillows as they provide comfort post-operation," Koreena said. "The staff are the ones who provide the pillows to the patients and instruct them on how to use them and what is required for a healthy recovery."

The Bridge City Pioneers are also running the project in Saskatoon this year, in partnership with the Coronary Rehab Group (CARG), who help those who require rehabilitation to regain strength and health after experiencing a cardiac episode. The pillows will once again be delivered to patients at Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital.

"This project gives back to the community and provides something that, to my knowledge, no other group does," said Brenda Iwasuik, Heart Pillow Project Coordinator with the Bridge City Pioneers. "I have heard stories of people who have had heart surgeries actually asking hospital staff 'When do I get my pillow?', so the project is well-known!"

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