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A mission to change the quality of recovery care…

Cherie Mathews is on a mission to change the quality of recovery care in America. Her plan is to provide comfortable recovery options for patients undergoing the ordeal of difficult upper-body surgeries. Mathews, a breast cancer survivor, was instructed on an already emotional day—just like a vast number of patients across the country—to bring an oversized men’s button-up shirt and some shoelaces to surgery. Standard post-operative instructions called for “loose-fitted clothing,” and after her mastectomy, Cherie came to the painful realization that there were not adequate recovery provisions for her or other patients going through similar procedures. Something was missing from the medical system—something to help provide patients with a sense of comfort and dignity during recovery, and Cherie felt a call to do something about it.

“Patients didn’t have the right equipment to go home in. If a sprained elbow gets a sling to heal in, why isn’t there helpful equipment to heal in after painful upper body surgeries?”

It was in that moment that she was inspired to create and patent the post-operative Recovery Shirt. Although created out of her necessity as a breast cancer patient, Cherie realized a need for recovery clothing after other types of procedures as well—heart surgery, organ transplants, shoulder surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy and other upper-body surgeries.

After returning home, coping with limited arm-movement issues, and having no place to put surgery drains in her makeshift recovery shirt, Cherie began developing plans to make things easier for others. She created a garment that combined hook and loop fasteners for easy dressing with internal pockets to hold and keep surgical drains or other medical devices out of sight. To add extra comfort, she constructed the garments with a super soft, moisture-wicking material, designed to separate patients’ perspiration from their bodies and keep them dry during recovery. Cherie tested out her design on her newly acquired survivor friends first, and when letters of support and thanks flooded in, it only inspired her more. The feedback from these women was overwhelmingly positive, but it didn’t stop there. Their physicians also praised and appreciated the shirts, and even routine check-ups were made easier. With the post-operative Recovery Shirt, only partial undressing is required during examinations, and that allows patients to retain their privacy and dignity during already difficult situations.

With her vision and determination to make surgery and recovery more manageable, Cherie has already made a significant impact in the medical community. She’s been named the Small Business Entrepreneur winner by Austin Magazine and is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise National Council member. Through her philanthropic efforts and bootstrapping sensibility, she has provided countless shirts to patients across the US. She continues to receive updates from patients who have been supplied with them through either an organization or individual. They are daily affirmations that her much needed improvements are actually making a difference. While her surgical recovery garments have already improved the care offered to many patients returning home, it’s her desire to make the post-operative Recovery Shirt standard protocol for anyone’s trip home from the hospital.