February 22, 2018
From One Heart to Another: Special Handmade Blankets Gifted to Kids with Heart Conditions
A project near and dear to the hearts of many Saskatchewan families has helped other families to feel a sense of community with the gifting of handmade blankets to children battling heart conditions.
The Cardiology Blanket Project, which launched in summer 2016, was created to give kids involved in CHAMPS Healthy Heart Camp an opportunity to get creative and spread kindness. Each child and their family are paired up with another child currently receiving care in hospital for treatment, recovery, or a brand new diagnosis of a heart condition. The group then selects material to use for a blanket and using a hands-on technique with ties and knots, the blanket is carefully crafted and then gifted to another child experiencing heart challenges.
“I wanted to develop a program that gives heart kids the chance to give back and support their peers. These kids are often wise beyond their years and have a lot to offer others,” explains Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Charissa Pockett. “We get comments from kids saying that ‘when I was going through surgery, I would’ve loved this blanket!’ To give back, especially to someone younger, it means a lot.”
The creators of the blankets, children attending CHAMPS camp, have endured their own personal history with a congenital heart defect. The Cardiology Blanket Project allows children at CHAMPS Camp, supported by Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation, to send a blanket to another child as a message of encouragement and to help them feel less alone in what they’re going through. Additionally, the children at camp write a letter to the recipient child who is going through the same difficult circumstances.
“To have something to give the families who are newly diagnosed, it gives them a lot of hope to know that a child with a heart problem grew up, went to this summer camp, and made this blanket for my child,” explains Pockett. “That’s huge when they’re facing a lot of uncertainty for their own child.”
Pockett and the cardiology team here in Saskatchewan developed the Blanket Project recognizing need for a crafty and quiet activity during the camp to allow campers and patients to interact. Patients who receive the blankets are all being treated in Saskatchewan thanks to the advanced pediatric cardiology care making its way into the province prior to the new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital opening next year.
Among those creating the blankets is 11-year-old Brasen Sim from Weyburn, alongside his family. Brasen was born not breathing after a long and difficult delivery, and after days of uncertainty, doctors confirmed his diagnosis of pulmonary stenosis. Brasen took on heart surgery at 11 weeks old, and although a healthy young athlete now, he still anticipates open heart surgery in the future.
“I found making a quilt for a newly diagnosed heart baby a very moving experience and I had to choke back emotions to write my letter to a new heart mom,” says Brasen’s mom Twyla. “It gave time to go back and reflect on a very stressful time [with Brasen] and offer words of support to someone else who is going through it. I know how much I would have appreciated it at the time of Brasen’s diagnosis.”
One blanket recipient is six-month-old Sage Petrie from Lucky Lake who was diagnosed with Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Sage spent one month in hospital and returned for two more weeks after developing a cold. Today, Sage is still in hospital but brings along with her the blanket she received. With the blanket, her family is reminded daily of the uplifting encouragement shared from another heart family.
“It’s very cute, we saved the letter that the other family wrote us and we keep it in her binder, so she’ll always have it,” says Sage’s mom Corrie.
To date, 70 blankets have been created at CHAMPS camp for families across Saskatchewan. To make a donation in support of pediatric cardiology in Saskatchewan, please visit https://pattisonchildrens.ca/how-to-help/donate/donate-now/#cp-has-heart-donation-match