SOS: What’s Sewing On?

Clinical Director of NYBRA Plastic Surgery's Patient Empowerment Program, Mollie Sugarman and a special delivery of Belt Buddies

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! We often refer to this time of year as the season of giving, what it means, and how to help those who need it most. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to support communities in need by simply doing something we already love. If you love to sew, we need your help!

We’re calling on friends, relatives, and patients to help us bolster our supply of key, homemade products that help our patients after surgery. These items are incredibly meaningful to our patients. We deeply appreciate any help you can offer and want to extend our sincerest gratitude to those of you who are already helping. I am honored by the support we receive every day.

Read on for last year’s call to action, along with details on what needs to be made, which items we most require, and how to get involved!

Patients who have used our practice are aware of how simple things make a difference in healing after mastectomy and reconstruction. We provide our patients with handmade items that improve quality of life during recovery as part of the NYBRA Patient Empowerment Program. We’re asking our community to step in to help us keep our supply high, so that we can continue to furnish patients with these essential recovery tools.

We frequently receive finished items from places as far as Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida, sometimes from patients who were treated nine or ten years ago. It doesn’t matter where you are or when you were affected by breast cancer, we would be grateful to have your help.

FemPower Belts

The femPower Belt, designed by Erica Misorek, is an elastic belt with pockets that are specially designed to hold and conceal postoperative surgical drains.

At the time of the mastectomy and reconstruction, surgical drains are placed near the mastectomy site and other reconstruction-related locations. These drains are made of a thin rubber tube connected to a soft, round squeeze bulb with a removable stopper. They remove fluid that can collect inside the body after surgery which can increase the chance of infection.

FemPower Belts help patients manage physical and emotional discomfort associated with drains by keeping them neatly around the waist and concealing them with soft fabric.

I’m calling on anyone who can create the fabric pockets that hold drains and/or the elastic belts to which the pockets are attached. Patterns, materials, and additional instructions are available to all interested.

Belt Buddies

Seatbelts can dig under normal circumstances: after surgery, that pressure is extremely uncomfortable. That’s why I developed a device that eases potential pain. Patient Empowerment Program participant Linda Marks and her daughter, Chelsey, took the idea and used it to kick off the Belt Buddy project, which lives on today with the help of our community of support. Belt Buddies are pillow-like protective cushions that velcro around seatbelts for protection and comfort.

I’m looking for individuals who have sewing machines capable of handling velcro and stuffing to make more of these pillows so that women can comfortably ride home from the hospital and to key doctor’s appointments.

As a practice, we are full of gratitude for everyone who has contributed and continues to contribute to these vital efforts over the years. Just this week, I believe the magic of holidays was realized by the generosity of patients who delivered FemPower pouches and Belt Buddies. The incredible, Charlotte, had her niece Tiffany deliver Belt Buddies, which now total 1,273 she has created. We continue to be overwhelmed by the commitment of NYBRA patients to pay-it-forward many years past their treatment.

Our partner, Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy/Full Circle is also graciously organizing a FemPower Belt workshop in February! The workshop will be limited to 20 participants. Keep your eye out for an upcoming announcement with final dates to join in creating these belts and pouches.

For those of you with the skills and availability to get to work on your own, I have some materials, along with resources to purchase additional supplies as needed. Pre-approved purchases will be reimbursed.

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering to help create these critical tools for breast reconstructive patients, email

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