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Sharp Health News

Blankets provide a ‘big hug’ for patients

Aug. 9, 2017

Blankets provide a ‘big hug’ for patients

Jolene Smith (right) gives a blanket to Sharp Memorial patient Reggie Smith (left). Jolene donates blankets to the Arts for Healing program to provide comfort and hope to patients.

For Jolene Smith, Mother’s Day 2015 wasn’t filled with joy and laughter with family. Instead, Smith received the shock of her life: Her 20-year-old daughter was diagnosed with stage 1 Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.

“My daughter’s diagnosis was a huge blow to my family, but we felt very lucky that her cancer was caught early, could be treated and had a more than 90 percent success rate,” says Smith.

When Smith accompanied her daughter to chemotherapy and radiation treatment at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion, she saw patients who didn’t have the support of family or friends. She began thinking of ways she could let these patients know there were others thinking of them.

Smith thought blankets would be a nonintrusive way to reach out to patients with something bright, cheerful and soft.

“It is my way of giving patients a big hug,” says Smith.

Smith brought the idea to her colleagues at Epsilon Data Management, LLC, which encourages employees to give back to the community.

Since then, Smith and her colleagues have donated blankets to the Arts for Healing program at Sharp Memorial Hospital. A majority of the blankets are purchased using monetary donations, but some of them are handmade by Smith and her colleagues.

Arts for Healing distributes the blankets to patients with cancer and other patients who may need comfort during their journey in the hospital.

This year, they donated 250 blankets, more than 10 times the blankets they donated the first year.

“Patients appreciate the blankets because it gives them a personal token to take home with them that helps them heal,” says Liz Mackenzie, Arts for Healing program coordinator.

Smith says her daughter’s Hodgkin lymphoma is in remission, and her daughter recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

“My daughter is living life and enjoying spending time with her family, thanks to the wonderful care she received at Sharp Memorial Hospital,” says Smith. “I was born at Sharp Memorial, my daughter received excellent care there, and now I’m able to give back to Sharp patients. Our story has come full circle.”

Learn more about the Arts for Healing program at Sharp hospitals.

For the news media: To talk with Liz Mackenzie about the Arts for Healing program for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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