My name is Carol Babbitt, and I am the president of an all volunteer national non-profit organization called Project Linus. We are almost 10 years old, and this month will be celebrating the donation of our millionth blanket to a child in need! Blankets can be knitted, crocheted, quilted, tied or fleece, and any size. Someone mentioned that you are looking for stories about using our handiwork for charitible purposes, and I just wanted to pass along a letter that we received a few months ago from a nurse in Albuquerque. It is the best description that I have ever read about the mission of Project Linus. Feel free to contact me should you have any questions. Thanks again,
Here is is:
Dear Project Linus,
I work in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Albuquerque. Project Linus blankets are often given out to our babies in the unit. I'm sure the women or men that make these blankets know that they are doing a "good thing," an "nice thing." But I want them to know specifically what their blankets do. I know they do this thing without recognition or thanks. But I wish to recognize every one of them though I won't know their names and I wish to thank them heartfelt. Thank you from myself, the other nurses, the babies and especially the parents!
A hospital, even a unit for babies is a very cold, sterile, clinical environment. The NICU is big, full of activity and noise. Every baby is hooked up to monitors, ventilators, feeding tubes, oxygen and IVs. It is very technical and nothing at all like what a parent has planned for their baby to live in after arriving. Very often the babies cannot wear clothes the parents have for them because of IV lines or surgical dressings. The babies don't have much peace or comfort with all the monitors beeping and all of the procedures and labs being done on them. Everything a parent sees in the unit and on their precious baby is a jolting reminder that their baby is sick, in the hospital and is not just their baby, but also a patient in an intensive situation.
It is easy for nurses to forget these are babies. They can become just patients when we are so busy doing procedures on them, working with their machines... doing all the very technical things we do. It is also very easy for a baby to forget that he or she is a baby when the environment is so light, loud and jarring. When the people dealing with them are not the voices they know in utero, the interactions are not loving or soothing; in fact they are often painful. The touch they feel may be therapeutic but not loving or comforting. The smells are of antiseptic and plastic.
So when a baby is given one of these blankets, it tells the parents someone else cares about their baby. It reminds them that their baby is a baby, not just a patient. It gives them something sweet and baby-like to focus on instead of heart monitors. It relieves some fear; it gives some hope. Many parents are far away from home or have no family that could make a precious memento for their baby like this. I've seen every parent touched by your gifts. When they come in and see a beautiful blanket on their baby's bed they ask right away "Who brought this to my baby?" When I tell them, they smile, they pick it up, and they fondle and look over every loving stitch. Then they find the tag, almost always touch it and always put the blanket back on their baby, covering IV lines and monitor wires and surgical dressings. Now their baby looks like a baby.
The nurses always ooh and aah over these precious blankets as well. Perhaps because the baby looks like a "baby" the nurses forget for a while that the baby is a patient. I see them bend over babies and coo and talk sweetly to them about "what a pretty blanket you have today" or, "you look so pretty in pink" etc. And when we do become the nurse again and have to draw labs on that baby we are very good about talking to the baby as we finish and wrap their very special blanket back about them. Please understand that we try to always treat the babies like babies and not just patients. We are not a bunch of mean old nurses, but your blankets are such visual reminders and they just humanize the whole environment and I feel make us better for it.
As for the babies, they are too small to know that someone with a kind heart and talented hand made them a present. However, they can smell and know this blanket doesn't smell like a hospital. Sooner or later it is taken home and washed and carried back by a parent. It is almost always in their bed so they can constantly smell a little bit of their parent. A little bit of something that is not hospital, a constant bit of security and familiarity. They can see. The patterns, the colors, give them something to focus on, for their eyes to track. They can touch. The textures and warmth become therapy. They explore with their hands, feet and mouths, and because it is with them so much, the familiarity gives security and a little peace in a very stressful environment. Babies are little, but they're not stupid. I can see what things calm and comfort a baby even if they are too sick to open their eyes... I can see their heart rate slow down and steady out. I can see the blood pressure come down, their respirations change. So believe me when I tell you the babies need and benefit from your gifts. Some of our babies are here for 6-12 months. When they are that old, they use their blanket as a security blanket. They pull it over their nose when they sleep, they reach and grab for it when they play, and they clutch it when they are stressed.
A few babies, (thank God it's very few) never make it out of the hospital. Some of our babies are so premature when they are born, the parents have not yet bought any baby things. Some are so very sick, the parents never leave their bedside to go buy baby things. And when these babies die, your blankets have the most significance. The mothers of such seriously ill babies will often bath their baby, the only time they've been able to. They will tenderly dry off this tiny body and wrap it so lovingly in the blanket. No tubes, no wires, just a tiny baby in a blanket. The first time their baby actually looks like a baby will be the last time they see their baby. When the nurses take a baby that is dying off of a ventilator, we wrap the baby up in their blanket if they have one and take the baby to a room with the parents where they can hold and rock their baby into God's waiting arms.
During these times it is more important than ever that these babies look like babies and not patients. Your blankets are tenderly tucked about these babies as their pictures are taken. Heartbroken mamas take these blankets home instead of babies. They are often their only keepsake of their very loved but lost child. So please know that your gifts are a blessing in life and in death.
Just the other day a blanket was given to one of my baby patients. The mom was so grateful and wanted to thank the thoughtful and generous person who made it. When I explained about your organization she said she wished that she could thank all of you. So, I thought I'd better say thank you too. This letter is a very important, heartfelt Thank You. Thank you to each and every one of you from the parents, the nurses and especially the babies. You've touched all of our lives and we really wanted you to know.
Neva Coffee RN
Presbyterian Hospital Albuquerque, NM