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Home : Community : Customer Gallery : Touching a patient in a different way
 

Customer Projects - Get Inspired

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Touching a patient in a different way
Created By: Mary Pelrine

I loved my career in nursing, taking care of premature babies and their families but when I was no longer able to provide nursing care because of a medical diability I found myself looking for an outlet in which I could somehow still touch patients. I was involved in the nursing outreach program at my parish in New Hampshire when a colleague brought in a clippng describing the Prayer Shawl Ministry four years ago. It wasn't long before I made my first shawl...and our own Shawl Ministry program began. I can still remember the first shawl I gave to a local family who had lost their only teenage daughter in a horrific car accident. Laura's mom was so grateful to receive it, in awe that someone would think of her in her time of need. Several months later, Barbara confided in me how she was able to fall asleep without crying because of the peace she found in her shawl. Unfortunately within three weeks of Laura's death anther family lost their son who was killed in a helicopter accident while serving in the Marines. The family welcomed me into their home-filled with family and friends. You could hear a pin drop as I read the prayer which I had attached to the shawl. I asked Elaine's brother, Joe, who has Down's syndrome, to help me wrap his sister, the mother of our fallen Marine, with the shawl. Their gratefulness I still feel today. I began a shawl ministry program at the hospital I had worked at for 23 years. The outpouring of people willing to create the beautiful shawls was overwhelming and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of their generosity. I remember one story of a patient who had received the shawl while in the intensive care unit. She was blind and as she fingered the shawl she told the chaplain how beautiful it was and how wonderful to receive a shawl in her favorite color, pink. The chaplain never told her what color the shawl was. The employees at Winchester Hospital have continued to provide shawls to the many needy patients, the inspiration to continue fed by their personal experiences. The ministry program in my parish continues to grow. We meet weekly and most recently the showy weather has prevented us from meeting yet the ladies continue to create beautiful shawls for our local needy. I assisted in the creation of another local group, providing them with the resources to get started. The women wanted to provide shawls to the spouses of our local prisioners. They were giving Christmas gifts to the inmates' children, and thought it would be nice to provide a sense of comfort to the wifes/significant others. Within two months the ladies created 35 shawls which were distributed to the women. There wasn't a dry eye. I am involved with another group in Merrimack. These ladies meet weekly. Beverly is amazing. She creates the most beautiful shawls and adds little buttons to personalize them. Rita likes to create shawls with designs and has made several shawls with the breast cancer ribbon. Shirley loves to knit and adds a touch of color. Nancy chooses intricate patterns and her shawls are a labor of love. Edie recently made a green shawl and incorporated a cross within her design. Her neighbor was struggling with the diagnosis of cancer. Edie wanted to reach out but didn't know how. I accompanied Edie during a visit to her neighbor. I explained the purpose of the shawl and proceeded to wrap her with the shawl Edie had made. She clutched my hand and you could feel her fear disipate. Macine felt the warmth, comfort and strength from her shawl for several months before succumbing to her illness. Charlotte has been touched by many recipients who have received a shawl she had created. One particular story comes to mind. She had visited an elderly patient whose family lived far away. She draped the shawl around her frail shoulders. Later Charlotte learned the woman had passed away and was buried with the shawl as it provided much comfort in her final days. Ilona, a breast cancer survivor, joined our group as a social outlet, never having crocheted before. We taught her how to crochet and before long she finshed her first shawl. She was so proud, but the most important thing was she was able to give to someone else in need, as she had once been. Prayer shawls are not the only things the ladies create. We have been making chemotherapy hats for children and adults, preemie and baby hats for the local hospitals, baby sweaters and blankets, helmet liners for our military in harms way, and hats and mittens for the local homeless shelters. This past year alone over 2700 items have been distributed. Some ladies only knit or crochet when we meet, others spend hours each day working their magic with the hands. Fran not only spends hours knitting, but is always looking for patterns to share with the group. Some parishioners contribute by donating yarn, many times the yarn has sentimental value...I remember one lady who donated yarn as she didn't have the energy to make the items she had hoped to create because she was recently diagnosed with cancer, some of the yarn had been her mother's. I made a prayer shawl with some of the yarn she donated and within a few days I was able to wrap her with her mother's love in the form of a shawl. Recently our group donated more than 40 shawls to our local Hospice House. It was reported back to us how the patients and even more so, the families, are so appreciative of the shawls, knowing their loved ones are finding comfort and strength. I recently had "the yearly mammogram". In preparation for this I put the call out to the ladies for shawls and chemotherapy caps-pink of course-which we could donate to the Breast Care Center. The response was overwhelming, 8 shawls and 59 caps within two weeks-all pink...the unfortunate thing, though, is the need is there. It is the stories and personal experiences which keeps the ladies motivated to create the shawls. Any time we receive a thank-you note it is shared with the group. We all take the time to pause and listen to the words in the notes...each one touching a part of our hearts. A poignant thank you came from one of our own who was struggling with her health. She wrote..."I just have to let you know how wonderful it felt to receive my prayer shawl. I never realized how meaningful it is, it made me feel so good. I met so many caring people by joining your group, I want to thank you all for making me feel so welcome. Love you all." Gilda.

As I reflect back on why, when and how I became involved with the prayer shawl ministry, I can only say it was one of the best things I have done not only for the people who receive the shawls but for myself. It gives me a sense of pride and self-esteem, things I had lost when I lost my nursing career. Now I touch people in a different way and it feels good. I strive to continue to provide warmth, comfort and love through prayer shawls. I hope to spread my enthusiasm to others so they can feel the same wonderful feelings I have by being part of this wonderful program.



 
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