Trisha Kendall, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N.
Trisha Kendall's dedication to cancer patients doesn't end when her shift as an oncology nurse at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center is over.
Twice a month, on her day off from work, she gets involved in a different kind of patient care. Kendall leads a group of University of Maryland Medical Center staff from various departments who make up the UMMC Knitting Circle. The group knits hats and scarves for cancer patients who have lost their hair temporarily as a side effect of chemotherapy. The knitters include pharmacists, lab techs, dieticians and even a few patients from across the medical center.
Kendall keeps a stash of the handcrafted hats at work, and lets patients choose one they like. She calls the program "Amber's Cozy Caps," named after Amber Drazdys, a former patient who developed a love of hats after leukemia treatment caused her hair to fall out. So far the group has produced hundreds of caps -- too many to count.
"Trisha puts her heart and soul into this program," says Trisha's boss, inpatient nurse manager Laura Hearson, B.S.N., R.N., O.C.N. "Patients get not only physical comfort from her efforts; they get the emotional comfort and support of knowing that someone has personally knitted something especially for them."
Kendall always brings extra knitting needles and yarn and gives on-the-spot lessons, even to people who have never knitted before. One of Kendall's recent patients, Vaiju Sisodia, who was being treated for leukemia, joined the knitting group. A beginning knitter, Sisodia said she was inspired to help fellow patients and find a way to pass the time while she was in the hospital for treatment.
"The Knitting Circle supports a healthy work environment by providing a way to relieve stress and do something positive for our patients at the same time," Kendall says. "I have really enjoyed meeting staff from so many different departments. Volunteers from area churches, community groups and a number of cancer survivors also contribute hats to the project."
She spreads the word within the hospital at every chance she gets -- word of mouth, through educational nursing summits and even had a table at a recent fund raiser for the local chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society.
As a special holiday project in 2010, Kendall decided to ask the knitters to make lap blankets for cancer patients in the cancer center. The goal for the holiday project was to make 100 blankets to distribute to patients who are undergoing cancer treatment or who have to be in the hospital during the holidays.
Kendall reports that the group exceeded its goal with the help of crocheters and friends both within and outside the Medical Center. "Staff from across the Medical Center joined forces with community members from the Waxter Center, local churches and cancer survivors to give to others this season. It's very touching to see how many people came through to help," she says.
Over 165 handmade lap blankets were presented to patients as holiday gifts. Kendall personalized each blanket with a tag that wished each survivor strength, peace and recovery. Volunteers distributed the blankets the week of December 20, both to outpatients in the Stoler Pavilion outpatient clinic and to inpatients at the cancer center.
In years past, Kendall's off-the-job efforts to help patients have extended beyond knitting. She has been known to assemble holiday gift bags for inpatients at the cancer center, stocking the bags with items donated by cancer center staff or purchased with her own funds and distributing them to patients on Christmas Eve.