The purpose of Covered in Love is, and always has been, providing comfort quilts to the families of patients who pass away in the hospital. Whenever possible we (that is, nurses, the hospital) try to get people someplace more comfortable to die, whether it's a hospice or their home, but sometimes that isn't possible. These are the people CiL serves.
I am often asked whether we actually give the quilt to the patients, of just to the families after a death? The answer is, well, it depends. We don't always get a lot of advance notice that someone is going to die (after all, if we had notice we'd have moved them to hospice) or everyone is so caught up in the efforts of saving their life that it doesn't become apparent until the last minute that it isn't going to work. (In the beginning we had so few quilts that we didn't want to give one until we were really sure that person was going to die, and soon.) But sometimes, more often that you'd think, we do get enough notice to put a quilt on the bed when the patient is still alive, and sometimes even lucid enough to smile and enjoy it. One example is when people are taken off of "life support" because everyone realizes efforts to save them have become futile. Typically it's planned a day or so in advance to give family time to fly in from out of state and so everyone can make arrangements to be at the bedside. Once someone is taken off life support it can take anywhere from minutes to days for them to pass.
In these cases, where the family is sitting by the bedside, keeping a death watch, making quiet phone calls to keep concerned relatives up to date, sharing stories of better times, crying, laughing and drinking lots and lots of coffee, a quilt provides a nice focal point. Something to talk about when you don't know what to say. Something to look at besides the drab, vinyl and press-board hospital furniture.
When CiL first started out we had a very narrow focus: exactly the sort of scenario I outlined above. That is, patients who had been in the hospital for some period of time, whose families decided this fight wasn't going to be winnable and withdrew aggressive treatment in favor of comfort care, but who were too "far gone" to make it to hospice. In the beginning we had only a few quilts, less than 5 a month or so, so this small target population worked out well. Five a month wasn't enough to serve all those people, perhaps half of them, but we weren't tapped in well enough to find them all, anyway. We never once ran out of quilts.
As the number of quilts grew, so did the demographic we served. The chaplains have always been careful to keep their distribution true to my vision for the program and we began to have a surplus of quilts. So we branched out. I told one of them, "People die every day in this hospital, we just have to find them." We began giving quilts to the families of patients who "coded" and died. That is, suddenly their heart stopped or they stopped breathing and efforts were made to revive them but were unsuccessful. A few have been given by special request of nurses to patients they had gotten attached to who were dying, but not quite yet and discharged to hospice.
In the future we can certainly give out more in the ER where patients sometimes come in dying and never make it as far as being admitted. Should we ever find ourselves with more quilts than we need, there are 2 other large hospitals in Tyler we can share with. Just recently I dropped off a load of quilts that put us over 115! The chaplains keep me updated regularly about the status of their quilt stash. Some weeks they may pass out 8 or 9 quilts, sometimes 2. Things go in waves like that. They tell me about a husband who kept his quilt clutched to his chest when he finally walked out of the hospital for the last time, without his wife.
The success of CiL has been thanks to every person who has donated quilts, blocks, quilting, batting, fabric, and time to this program and its success truly belongs to all of us. Never doubt that what you do matters and thank you so much. If this all ended tomorrow, I would be satisfied.
It isn't ending, don't worry ;) As I mentioned last week we are taking this month off from the usual block drive to give me a chance to catch up a bit, but check back at the end of the month for next month's drive. Meanwhile I'll be posting some finishes here, and of course finished quilts, tops, or UFOs are always welcome donations. Leave a comment or email CoveredinLoveTx@gmail.com for more information.