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Oshkosh woman turns pain into opportunity By Doug Zellmer of the Northwestern

Jean Kelly used to toss and turn as many as 20 times a night as muscle pains racked her body.

During a sleepless period earlier this year, she got an idea to alleviate the unbearable nights she had become accustomed to after being diagnosed 15 years ago with fibromyalgia, a common form of generalized muscle pain, stiffness and fatigue. It afflicts about five million people, said the Arthritis Foundation.

“I asked God why I was going through this,” she said from her home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “One night the idea popped into my head. I needed a cocoon to cushion my body, a nest like a pillow.”

Kelly, a registered nurse, put the thought to work, making a pattern out of vinyl wallpaper and used the stuffing of several pillows to make a U-shaped body support pillow.

The Comfort-U pillow is being marketed nationally and could be useful for those with afflictions like back pain, arthritis and strokes.

The innovative, 7-˝ pound U-shaped pillow, which sells for $129.95 with pillow case, relieves pressure on a person’s lower back and supports the shoulders. It has made sleeping bearable for Kelly, who said the Lord also served as strength during her ordeal.

“Now, I turn once a night and I can’t believe the difference,” she said. “My back and all of my joints are totally supported. It has been a blessing.”

Pillow Provides Relief Nursing Matters Magazine. Article by Jean Kelly, RN

I’ve been an RN since 1964. Over the years, I’ve worked in many different specialties. I managed our local ER for years and supervised minor surgeries. I’ve also worked in med-surg and with visiting nurses. For seven years I worked in a nursing home. For the past 12 years I ‘ve been working on acute adult and child-adolescent psych units at Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh and St. Elizabeth‘s hospital in Appleton. Sometimes I fill in for other RNs in utilization review and discharge planning.

Fifteen years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It felt like arthritis. There wasn’t any deformity but insomnia became unbearable due to the muscle stiffness and aching.

Several years ago a friend of mine died of bone cancer at age 40. Her pain and inability to find a comfortable position are vivid in my mind as I searched for my nighttime pain and insomnia relief. I also thought of patients I had cared for, the bed-ridden with decubiti, stroke victims, arthritics, those with M.S. and other fibromyalgia suffers. In pain I would toss back and forth through the night. In the morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

Working the day shift was becoming more and more difficult due to my mental and physical exhaustion. I was afraid I might make a serious med error. I love nursing but was considering quitting the profession.

Sometimes I would sit up at night and pray, asking God what purpose there was to my sleeplessness. One night the idea of a pillow came to me. I needed a cocoon to cushion my body, a nest. I made a pattern out of vinyl wallpaper and sewed my pillow. The pillow is a large U shape that surrounds my entire body.

It was great from the start. I now only turn once a night. My joints, muscles and skeletal system are supported, resting in a cushioned position.

I’m a firm believer that God will take our affliction and use it for ministry. Gratitude fills my heart as I was given the opportunity to bring relief and comfort to those who experience pain and discomfort. The sleep I experience now is a blessing.

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