MINNEAPOLIS--Dorothy Ferrian is a woman who understands the pain of losing a loved one. She and her family have experienced loss at various points in their lives and can understand first hand the importance of bringing comfort to those who are grieving.
Dorothy was nominated for an Eleven Who Care award by her daughter, Cheryl, for her willingness to volunteer her time to make and provide comfort quilts to families and patients that have been admitted to the Fairview Southdale Intensive Care Unit (ICU). These quilts are intended to bring a sense of home and comfort to patients spending a lot of time in the ICU. If a patient passes away the quilts are often cherished by the families as a memory of their loved one's last days.
Dorothy has always been a skilled and active sewer and quilter. While she was recovering from rotator cuff surgery she was unable to participate in the mission sewing group at her church so Cheryl suggested she make some quilts for the hospital. Dorothy made 300 quilts and didn't want to quit. Since then she has made over 2,000 quilts that have continued to bring comfort to ICU patients and families.
Dorothy's beautiful work has touched more than the lives of the families who have receive one of her quilts, it has also made an impact on the Fairview Southdale staff that work with and care for their patients. David, a Registered Nurse in the ICU was so inspired by Dorothy's quilt and the impact it made on his life and the life of a certain family that he wrote the beautiful narrative below.
Red and Black Flannel
It was red and black. By no means an expert on colors, patterns or fabric make-up, the quilt was simply picked because it reminded the nurse of old fashion britches often worn in the cold mid west winters. The quilt was picked for this particular patient because he was the age of that generation of men who would wear those britches in Minnesota whether working the land, hunting or ice fishing. The quilt would only be on him for a short time but would have an impact far reaching.
Mr. M came into the Intensive Care Unit with a gastrointestinal bleed from a nursing home. He had been in rehab after a hip surgery and at some point had made the decision that he did not want any lifesaving treatment that would involve machines or additional surgeries. The nurse would later learn prior to having the hip replacement he lived with his son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. His granddaughter was eight years old and his grandson five. The nurse would like that he was not a permanent resident of a nursing home but rather lived in an extended family.
Mr. M.'s condition began to deteriorate quickly upon arrival to the ICU. Two different doctors would approach him about his decision to forgo certain types of treatment and each time he would stand firm in his answer. His son and daughter-in-law were called, informed of his deteriorating health and were driving to the hospital separately. His son was driving from work and daughter-in-law from home with the children. Eventually, his son would pull over and await the arrival of his wife and children and finish the journey to the hospital as a family. As his family made their way to the hospital the patient's level of alertness slowly began to deteriorate as the healthcare professionals treated him while respecting his healthcare directive.
Unfortunately, the patient died prior to the arrival of his family. He passed away in the company of the healthcare professionals he knew for only a short time. His hand held, his hair stroked, silent prayers whispered.
While waiting for the arrival of the patient's family, the nurse cleared the room of all the equipment used to treat Mr. M. A small lamp in the corner of the room would cast a warmer, softer glow than the bright lights of the room which are used to assess a patient's condition or read medications. The room takes on a peaceful quiet without the machines delivering medications, blood, and intravenous fluids. The hiss of oxygen being delivered in a large quantity no longer heard. The sharp alarms of a bedside monitor alerting the nurse to changes in heart rate and blood pressure no longer needed, now silenced. Despite the peaceful silence and the warm glow of the bedside lamp the room still does not feel like home. Then the red and black flannel quilt is laid on the lap of Mr. M. It looks as if it was made specifically for him.
Mr. M.'s family would arrive shortly after met by the nurse at the nursing station desk. The young age of the children catches the nurse off guard and he tears up immediately. He meets Mr. M.'s son in the hall and alerts him to his father's passing. His children choose not to accompany their dad into "grandpa's" hospital room. Son and nurse enter together. That is when Mr. M.'s story is shared with the nurse. The patient was so many things, a father, spouse, farmer, fisherman, and most importantly grandpa. The nurse removes Mr. M.'s watch with his son and imagines the son will now wear his father's watch to serve as a reminder not only of how precious our time but also how fleeting. The son asks about the quilt and where it came from. The nurse explains it was made by the health unit coordinators mother. The quilt was given to Mr. M to try and bring some form of home comfort. The quilt now belongs to his family if he should want it. Mr. M.'s son, eyes brimming with tears, takes and folds the quilt and places it under his arm.
Upon leaving the room, son and nurse are met by the rest of the family. Looking at the children it is obvious tears have been shed. Mr. M.'s son hands the quilt to his daughter and shares information with his children only as a parent can in these types of situations including grandpa's quilt. And as son and daughter-in-law thank the nurse, Mr. M.'s grandson turns to his sister and asks "Can I carry grandpa's blanket?" Without any fuss the quilt is handed over to the five year old and is immediately clutched to his chest as if hugging his grandfather.
Dorothy Ferrian has made upwards of 1500 quilts for our ICU over 4 years. What may have started as rehab after a shoulder surgery was done with an intention. Any activity that is done with intention be it love, apathy or anger carries with it a great power. Dorothy's intention behind each quilt is obviously love. Each quilt is made by hand, heart and soul. As a nurse who has witnessed the power of these quilts I believe the prayers offered over them find their way to specific patients and their families. I believe in some circumstances it is the last offer of healing we can make in our ICU, as much for the living as the dying. I have witnessed quilts picked for the young and old by nurses, nursing assistants and sometimes by the family. They are given to the critically ill without knowing the final outcome. The power of this one experience has healed some of the hurts I carry from years of nursing and the ability to share in an experience such as this, fuels my love for what I am privileged to do every day.
This story is one of many and David's words ring true as it is clear to see that "Dorothy's intention behind each quilt is obviously love. Each quilt is made by hand, heart and soul."
KARE 11 is proud to honor the work of Dorothy and the other amazing 2013 Eleven Who Care Honorees. Each honoree has shown that making a difference in the life of an individual, family or community starts with the willingness to give of one's time and talents.
Have some time and a gift you would like to share with your community? Visit HandsOn Twin Cities to find a volunteer opportunity near you!