Spectrum Health is behind a first-of-its-kind thermal bra for breast cancer survivors, designed to keep them warm.

The idea for the bra came from Jodie Faber, an employee of the Grand Rapids-based health care system.

“This is something that is going to increase the comfort of breast cancer survivors,” said Faber, director of Spectrum Health United Lifestyles, the wellness and prevention program associated with Spectrum Health United and Kelsey hospitals.

In 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy.

Soon after reconstructive surgery, she was swimming in Grand Traverse Bay on a sunny afternoon. When she came out of the water, she noticed her breasts were bright red.

The silicone in her breast implants became like ice packs, chilling the rest of her body because she no longer had tissue in her chest to provide a layer of installation for her core.

Laying out in the sun wasn’t enough to warm her. She had to take a hot shower to get rid of the chills.

The experience had her looking for a better solution.

The most common recommendation were hand warmers. But they burned her skin, now sensitive after the removal of tissue and nerve endings.

‘Someone listened to me’

A decade later, she relayed her idea for some kind of warming bra to Mike Czechawkyj, a nurse on Spectrum Health Innovations, a for-profit business venture the health system created in 2007.

The venture began as an initiative three years earlier to encourage a culture of innovation by providing a channel for employees to share ideas for improving care.

Faber connected with the Innovations team in 2015, during a “road show,” when the team tours Spectrum facilities to let employees know about the programs and elicit their ideas.

“This is going to sound odd but here is my problem,” Faber remembers telling Czechawkyj. “It felt like someone listened to me.”

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