Our Stories

Filled with comfort

Toronto, December 19, 2017

By Kelly O’Brien

Daniela Muscatello and Vaishali Sengar drop off comfort pouches in the Medical Daycare Unit
Daniela Muscatello and Vaishali Sengar drop off comfort pouches in the Medical Daycare Unit. Sengar and her team collected enough donations to fill 350 pouches for cancer patients. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Vaishali Sengar, a patient safety specialist at St. Michael’s, has assembled “comfort pouches” for women undergoing cancer treatment with the help of colleagues from across the hospital.

Sengar said she has friends who assembled and donated comfort pouches at cancer centres across the city in years past, and was inspired to bring the initiative to St. Michael’s.

She approached the Medical Daycare Unit with the idea, and said they were eager to be a part of the intitiative.

In October, Sengar, in collaboration with the Medical Daycare Unit staff, began collecting donations of $30 or $45 for small and large pouches, respectively. Each pouch is filled with items to help make chemotherapy treatment more comfortable: lip balm, fuzzy socks, crossword puzzles and mints and candies.

Her goal was to raise enough money to purchase and fill 75 pouches. When she posted about the initiative on social media, it was immediately clear her colleagues were on board to help her achieve it.

Starting this month, nearly 350 pouches will be delivered to patients.

“So many people in the St. Mike’s community wanted to help, and within the first day the donations were pouring in from staff,” she said. “I was completely overwhelmed.”

Daniela Muscatello, an applications specialist in the IT department, was one of those people. She said as soon as she heard about the initiative, she rallied her co-workers and collected enough donations to purchase 10 pouches on behalf of the department.

Did you know?
A similar initiative to assemble comfort pouches for hemodialysis patients is being led by Julie Saccone, a former communications adviser at St. Michael’s. For more information or to contribute, contact

“We aren’t physically located in the hospital, so for me, helping patients in this way was an opportunity for us to stay connected to the front lines and remind ourselves what’s going on where we work,” she said.

In addition to the IT Department, the Pharmacy Department was one of the biggest contributors to the initiative.

“Everyone, whether you see patients every day or not, can relate to the idea of being cold or scared or nervous, and even having a few little things to help with that can make a huge difference,” said Rayna Giobbe, business manager in the Pharmacy Department. “I’m so proud to be able to give back through such a beautiful initiative.”

Sengar said she also received generous donations from nurses across the hospital, in addition to those from the physicians, social workers and other staff from Medical Daycare.

“These packages will show that staff from all departments care about what these women are going through,” she said. “It’s something to give them a boost, especially for people who are here over the holidays.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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