RIVER FALLS, Wis.
Many of the women who sewed quilts as part of the project. Sitting (front row): Jen Loesch (RFAH director of quality and patient safety), Kathy Hogberg (social worker), Alex Adkins (physical therapist), Kathye Beebe (RFAH Auxiliary member)
A labor of love has brought together community members wanting to provide comfort to those in grief.
About 40 women have dedicated their talents to sewing dignity quilts over the fall and winter for the River Falls Area Hospital and area nursing homes.
Coordinated by the River Falls Area Hospital Auxiliary, the dignity quilt project sprang from a suggestion by Alex Adkins, a physical therapist at the hospital.
"My idea actually began from a comment made by a patient's family member, who mentioned they witnessed a deceased patient being transported out of the building," said Alex. "My thought was to cover the patient with something comfortable that had been made with love, making it a more dignified and peaceful experience for loved ones."
A dignity quilt is used to drape the body of a loved one after passing while being transported from a hospital or nursing home.
When Alex's idea was presented to the hospital auxiliary group last July, members were inspired, rallying area church sewing groups and quilting friends to produce 15 quilts—more than enough for the two or three requested by the hospital and enabling the auxiliary to offer them also to nursing homes in River Falls, Ellsworth and Spring Valley.
RFAH Auxiliary member Kathye Beebe, who coordinated the quilt project, said she was touched to see the way the women worked together to bring the quilts to fruition.
"One of the women volunteered to cut the pieces of fabric for another because her hands didn't work so well," she recalled. "People have worked together on this project even though they may not have been friends prior to it—it's been a wonderful thing. There's a lot of work that goes into a quilt, from cutting the pieces straight and accurately to putting them together; it's precision work. These quilts are beautiful."
The first three quilts were presented to River Falls Area Hospital on Thursday (Feb. 5). Presentations to the area nursing homes will follow.
Kathye said a huge motivation for auxiliary members was the knowledge this was a tangible way they could make a difference to an often highly emotional experience for hospital staff and family members.
"It's a very profound thing; it's heavy, and it's a burden," said Kathye. "We thought this could soften that for everyone, even the staff at the hospital."
For Alex, it means a lot to see her initial suggestion become a reality at the hospital.
"I hope families feel their family member is being handled with dignity and respect in the final moments in the hospital and to the point of transportation," she reflected. "I think it will add just another personal touch to what we as a hospital already excel at for everyone who walks through our doors."