The postanesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse roused me from my anesthesia cloud gently. As I came to, I found that I now had odd attachments, like octopus extensions with bulbs. An uncomfortable, unexpected wakeup.

Slowly, I started grasping at the foreign objects. I had just undergone a lumpectomy procedure. Some excision had occurred. But, what were these new additions? I didn’t count on gaining appendages. How did these new hitchhikers plan to travel with me? 

A Jackson Pratt (JP) drain is an awkward experience for any cancer patient. Just when life is swirling out of control, new issues arise regarding sleeping, bathing, and regaining mobility.

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I was handed safety pins. Seven surgeries over 20 years, each successive time I was handed safety pins to support the JP drains, and poorly at that. For example, when the drains were pinned to my gown, I rolled onto them at night. Ouch. Or, a nurse forgot the drains were attached to the gown and inadvertently yanked at the sutures when changing my gown. Ouch, again. Showers meant allowing gravity to pull the bulbs the length of the tube. Ouch, once again. Could there be a simple, inexpensive way to allow people to return to normal life while sporting medical drains?

After my fourth cancer diagnosis and third breast reconstruction, I wanted a solution. A way to support the suspended drains—heavy with mucus and blood clots—that did not aggravate my wound area. My plastic surgeon suggested a Home Depot canvas apron. The idea received rave reviews from the nursing team at the UC Davis Medical Center. The ICU crew appreciated the apron pockets, since it meant not spending valuable time searching for my drains to clear fluids. Also, the centralized access permitted me to sleep through the night, even when it was necessary for staff to check drain fluid levels.