CAMBRIDGE — Two patients at the Eastern Shore Hospital Center (ESHC) were on pins and needles waiting to see who would receive a special gift. In December five patients joined a unique group at ESHC that focuses on creating handmade projects that benefit others. Last year the project was Dresses for Africa; this year it was a “shadow quilt” to be donated to a local nursing home resident.
While three of the patients have been discharged, the other two were eager to hear about the lucky recipient. Mallard Bay resident Sara Marine was chosen. ESHC registered nurse, Treatment Mall Coordinator, and sewing expert Cristi Schmidt presented the quilt to Ms. Marine, saying “This is for you to enjoy and to keep you warm. See how nice and cozy it is. And it’s pretty feminine, too. I’m glad you’re a girl.” Pleased with her gift, Ms. Marine’s smile said it all. “It’s nice,” she said softly.
“This is a shadow quilt,” explained Ms. Schmidt. “If it is hung on the wall it looks like the blocks have a shadow.”
Nurse Schmidt explained, “The patients that did the Dresses for Africa wanted to make sure that we continued in this vein with outreach projects. I had purchased the makings for that project years ago and I thought ‘well, this will be perfect for them to do.’ I built the quilt blocks because it was very intricate, but they helped with putting the batting in and adding the backing fabric.”
The group used a donated quilt frame that was set up in the Treatment Mall or a classroom so the group could sit around the frame to hand stitch and quilt. “Unfortunately,” said Ms. Schmidt, “three of the five were discharged before I had the binding done. I had never done binding before so I got my sister to do that. Then I had it cleaned and dry cleaned.”
Several nursing homes work closely with the ESHC but they are not all in Dorchester County. Ms. Schmidt said, “The patients were hoping for something local so that they could just picture someone on the Eastern Shore enjoying it. The social workers at ESHC gave me some names and this is the place that sort of ‘won the drawing.’”
“I was blessed with this talent so I’m using it,” she explains. One way Ms. Schmidt uses her talents is to mend the clothes for patients who may need a button sewn on, or a hem altered because, as she says, “The patients really have no other options. It’s been a wonderful thing for everyone and I truly enjoy it. I’ve been a nurse for 27 years and my family says they can’t believe it’s taken 30 years to find my niche.”
The next ESHC sewing project is creating bright, cheery pillowcases for ill, hospitalized children by participating in a nationwide program called Ryan’s Case for Smiles. The organization strives to improve the quality of life of children and their families as they undergo treatment. Ms. Schmidt’s explains, “My goal is to make at least 30 pillowcases for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.”
Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.