Crocheting kindness

When nurse Doris Michel put the bunny ears cap on 1 ½-day-old Maksim Damjanovich’s head, the baby looked adorable, and the nurse beamed with joy.

Travis Drummond holds his 2-day-old baby, Aurora. She’s wearing a cap that was crocheted for her by Kelley Berens, night charge nurse in the Mom/Baby Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North. (B.C. Manion)

This is the third time that a member of the Damjanovich family has received a crocheted cap after being born at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, at 4211 Van Dyke Road in Lutz.

“We think it’s really special,” said Alison Damjanovich, of Tampa Palms.

Her other two daughters, Genevieve, who is nearly 3, and Rosalie, who is about 20 months, also received the crocheted caps when they were born at the hospital.

“It’s nice to have a little keepsake to bring home and keep forever. It’s very special,” Damjanovich said.

Cherish and Travis Drummond were delighted, too, when night charge nurse Kelley Berens bestowed a yellow cap to their 2-day-old daughter, Aurora.

“I think it’s awesome,” Cherish Drummond said. “It’s very sweet.”

Night nurse Fritzie Plaras-Rooney went the extra, extra mile. She crocheted a cap and a cotton-tail diaper cover for a baby in the Mom/Baby Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, where she works.

Travis, agreed: “I think it’s great. I have a disabled aunt. This is part of what she does to be able to active — makes hats for babies in her community.”

The tiny caps are just two of the thousands that nurses Michel, Berens and Fritzie Plaras-Rooney have made for babies under their care in the Mom/Baby Unit at the hospital.

Berens and Plaras-Rooney have been at the hospital since it opened in February 2010. Michel joined the staff a year later.

The nurses do this project on their own, selecting and paying for the yarn, and making the caps on their own time. Occasionally, though, they do receive donations of yarn or of caps others have made.

The idea for crocheting caps for the new arrivals likely came up in a conversation during a break, but it was so long ago she isn’t sure, Berens said.

From left, Kelley Berens, Fritzie Plaras-Rooney and Doris Michel enjoy crocheting caps as a welcome to the world gift for the babies under their care at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North. Nurse manager Nathalie Fetgatter, in the back row, is delighted by the nurses’ personal touch.

She does remember that at another place where she worked, people sent in caps of compassion for premature babies who did not survive.

“I guess that’s what sparked the idea,” Berens said. But, she had a variation on that theme: “Why not do it for every baby?”

Before she could start making caps, though, Berens had to watch some YouTube videos to refresh her crocheting skills.

The women said they make the caps all over the place.

Plaras-Rooney, of Wesley Chapel, likes to make them while watching HGTV programs.

Michel, of Spring Hill, gets a lot of crocheting done while waiting at her doctor’s office.

Berens, of Land O’ Lakes, makes good use of her time as she sits in the car line at her son’s school.

They also make them during their breaks at work.

It typically takes about a half-hour to crochet a cap.

They make them in various styles.

They’ll do holiday themes. Or, the colors of a favorite football team. Or, in a shade to match the baby’s nursery.

Three nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North crochet caps of varied designs for babies arriving at the hospital. They say soft yarn is best for making the caps.

“The cool thing is that a lot of us (nurses) do three nights in a row, so we’ll have the same mom and baby,” Berens said.

That gives them a significant advantage: They know, precisely, how big the baby’s head is.

“So, we can really customize it (the cap) to the individual baby,” Berens said,

While it’s satisfying to create the caps, the nurses don’t always take credit for their work.

Plaras-Rooney said she likes to surprise families, by slipping the cap into a drawer where they will be sure to find it.

Berens can be stealth, as well. “Sometimes, I send it (the baby’s cap) in with someone else,” she said.

But, Michel said she enjoys presenting the baby — wearing the cap — to his or her mom, just before they’re leaving the hospital.

“Seeing the reactions is the best thing,” Michel said.

Doris Michel holds 1 ½-day-old Maksim Damjanovich, who is wearing a bunny ears cap that she crocheted for him. Three nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North make the caps as a gesture of kindness.

All three women said it feels great to provide a personal touch with the families they serve.

“We make relationships with people,” Berens said, noting some of the moms have already given birth to three or four babies at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, even though it’s a relatively new hospital.

For Plaras-Rooney, the joy comes from treating the moms and babies like they were members of her own family. “I love my patients,” she said.

Michel gets a kick out of making the caps.

“It’s fun,” she said.

Nurse manager Nathalie Fetgatter, of Land O’ Lakes, is pleased that the nurses give of themselves to create stronger connections with families.

“I love that they do this,” she said.

Travis Drummond, baby Aurora’s dad, is impressed, too.

“I understand the time and effort that goes into that sort of thing — having gone and gotten the yarn for my aunt,” he said.

“At a time when everybody is looking to make a buck — to make something by hand, give it away — it’s very special. It does mean a lot, you know,” he said.

Published April 4, 2018

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