Elaine Strong, R.N., knew her patient on 4 West was having a difficult time. The woman had pneumonia on top of a number of other ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease. Confused and unsteady on her feet, the woman repeatedly tried to get out of bed.
Strong reached for something that is not conventional medicine to help her patient – a prayer shawl. She wrapped the hand-knit shawl around her patient, who calmed down within minutes and drifted off to sleep. Strong has provided prayer shawls to a number of patients and families, offering comfort at a time of painful emotions. “There are times I’ve wrapped the shawls around people that you can see emotion melt from their faces,” Strong explained.
The prayer shawls are a new item available through pastoral service’s Angel Cart ministry. Marge Jones, chaplain, got the idea of including them based on similar shawls provided by local churches to their congregations. “The patients were always so appreciative,” Jones said, “So I decided it was a must for our patients.”
The shawls are a labor of love for many employees throughout The Christ Hospital. Debbie Campbell, R.N., of Quality Management Services, sought the help of a Girl Scout troop to bring in a supply. Their request to a local church resulted in a flood of donations of individually made shawls, each placed in a gift bag. The scouts earned a Silver Award for the project.
For Therese Singleton, R.N., of the Cardiovascular Stepdown Unit, crocheting prayer shawls is therapeutic for her as well. Proficient in crocheting for about 30 years, Singleton jokes that it’s a soothing way to pass time while her husband is behind the wheel during long road trips. “When he’s driving my car, I need to keep myself occupied. It calms my nerves completely.”
Singleton has created about five shawls for the ministry, but she says she has never worked off a pattern. “Whatever God puts in my fingers to do, I just go and do them.” What is part of the design, no matter who is performing the needlework, is a good measure of love and faith. Each person creating a prayer shawl is asked to pray over each shawl as it is crafted.
Not only do the shawls provide physical comfort and warmth, they also provide the intangible benefits of spirituality, which Strong says patients can feel just as much. “It’s almost seeing the prayers of someone else, because it is something to hold,” Strong said. “We’re trying to keep their hearts warm as much as their bodies. As a nurse, it’s one more way that I can enrich their lives. It touches me as much as it touches them.”
If you are interested in volunteering to create prayer shawls to be given to patients, contact The Christ Hospital pastoral services at 513-585-2265.