Thinking creatively is helping cancer patients and the environment at Epworth Richmond.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy are given heat packs, wrapped in plastic sleeves.

Emma Lee, Associate Nurse Unit Manager, noticed the plastic sleeves were being thrown away, adding to landfill.

“I was seeing many plastic sleeves being thrown in the bin and thought there must be a better way we could use them.” Emma says.

“When I administer chemotherapy, I noticed patients didn’t have bags to insert their chemo pump. Patients would have to provide their own bag, or would walk around with the pumps in their hands.”

Emma produced a sustainable solution to turn the empty plastic sleeves into practical cross-body shoulder bags for cancer patients. This enables patients to easily move around with their chemotherapy pumps. The pumps slowly infuse chemotherapy into patients, via an intravenous (IV) line, over a period of up to a week.

“The shoulder straps are long so they can wear the pump like a handbag and freely move about. Patients also love that they are water resistant. They can dry them with a towel when they have finished showering.”

Patient Rosamund said showering was much easier with the recycled bag.

“To me, the main benefit of Emma's invention is in the shower. I am now able to put the pump on the shelf by the shower arm, in its waterproof coat, with my hands free to wash, even my hair! This is a significant improvement over the other fabric bags, which couldn't get wet,” she said.

“I would like to congratulate Emma for finding a way to reuse a plastic bag, which would otherwise have found its way to landfill.”

Not only are the bags useful for patients, they are also very practical for medical staff, with the transparent sleeves allowing nurses to see through the plastic and check the pumps.

“I have made 10 so far and am about to start on a new batch,” Emma says.

“I make enough for each patient to use, and keep, throughout their chemotherapy journey.”

Pictured: Rosamund congratulates Emma on her handy invention.