Monday, March 22, 2010

Small Gift Makes Big Impact in Lives of Cancer Patients

Hand-Made Hats Bring Hope and Comfort to Loyola Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center Patients

MAYWOOD, Ill. – “When a person receives a cancer diagnosis his or her life is completely transformed and all of the sudden they have so few choices,” said Laura Morrell, social worker at Loyola University Health System’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. Thirty-five women and one man who attend the Divine Savior Parish in Downers Grove, Ill., are helping to bring choice back into cancer patients’ lives.

Led by parishioner Jackie Griffith, the group knits, sews, crochets and quilts items that offer comfort during times of physical or emotional illness. To bring hope to patients at the Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center they made and donated more than 80 hats.

“When facing such a difficult reality as cancer even the littlest things make a big impact,” said Barbara Buturusis, executive director of the cancer center.

The hand-made hats are created in a variety of colors and sizes to appeal to men, women and children. Because a cancer patient’s skin can be extremely sensitive the group uses various kinds of materials so patients can choose which would work best for them.

Debbie Morelli, Loyola’s clinical cosmetologist, will share the story of the hats while bringing them to patient care areas. This not only gives each cancer patients a special gift, but also a choice and a connection.

“Cancer patients can feel alone, but this gift will help them see they are supported and that someone they don’t even know is thinking about them. It can’t help but boost their spirits,” said Morrell.

All time and materials to make the hats are donated by group members. As they stitch, they pray for the individual who will receive the gift. Before being distributed each item receives a special blessing from Father William Conway, Divine Savior Parish pastor.

“We know this isn’t much, but we pray our gifts give patients strength and courage,” said Griffith. “We want them know they aren’t alone on this journey. We are thinking and praying for them.”

Arlene Richert, master-knitter and huge proponent for the ministry, joined the group as a way to use her talents for the greater good. Her understanding of the need to offer support and love goes far beyond her amazing knitting skills as she has walked through the dark waters of cancer with several friends and family members, including her son and husband.

“I should have started doing this a long time ago,” said Richert. “It makes you feel like you can do something to help a person in need and that is such a rewarding feeling.”

Richert is using her 50-plus years of knitting excellence to train a new generation, helping many of the novices in the group learn the skill.

“Working on a project like this puts things into perspective,” said Griffith. “How different the world would be if we all did something special for another person, someone we didn’t know. We’re just doing our part.”

“Our patients feel connected by prayer to these holy people. We are so grateful for their love, care and generosity,” said Buturusis.

The group also has pledge to make blankets and shawls.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.