By Emma Wolff

How many times have you heard someone say, “I got your back”? Well, 17-year-old North 32nd resident Darcy Vecchione is giving this phrase a whole new meaning with her community service project for spinal patients. “I got your back” is printed on every one of the handmade pillows she created to provide comfort to the spinal and orthopedic patients at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

For Vecchione, this project is personal. In August 2019, her life changed forever after receiving a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis, a disorder of the spinal cord in which one vertebra slips onto the bone below it. The spinal condition can result in severe back and leg pain.

It was an overwhelming, frightening and painful time in her life. But, rather than becoming disheartened and gloomy, it inspired her mission to help children in similar situations find comfort.

“As soon as I was diagnosed, I knew this experience wasn’t going to be easy,” says Vecchione. “I wanted to help others as soon as I could. Once I started feeling like myself again, I decided to put this community service project in action.”

While dealing with her condition, Vecchione found comfort in a little blue pillow. This petite pillow relieved the strain on her back and was the only thing that seemed to ease her daily pain. The pillow went with her to school, out to eat and when she was with friends. She believed other children in pain deserved the relief she found from her pillow.

“This project is very special to me. Going through painful spine surgery at such a young age was not easy, so I wanted to make it better for other kids experiencing similar situations,” says Vecchione. “I wanted them to know someone in their community understands their pain and is here to offer support. With every pillow I include my contact information so patients can reach out whenever they need. This way they know I’ve truly got their back.”

Vecchione’s “I got your back” pillows were distributed to the patients of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The travel-sized pillows are compact, so children like Vecchione can have support anytime and anywhere.

“The lead orthopedic doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital said the pillows were a huge hit. The patients were delighted to receive something to ease their discomfort and they were smiling from ear to ear,” says Vecchione. “A few kids reached out to tell me they haven’t let go of their pillow during their time in the hospital. It filled my heart with joy knowing I made their experience a little more bearable.”

To learn more about this project, e-mail [email protected].