Two years ago, Betty Wass found that she could no longer provide care for her husband, Mohamed El Wakil, at home. After much consideration he was admitted to a local board and care facility.
Due to Mohamed’s declining health and mobility, the simple task of getting dressed was becoming too strenuous for him, and a hospital gown was recommended. Unfortunately, the facility he was in did not provide hospital gowns. His hospice nurse, Claire Finne, suggested to Betty that she might alter a few of her husband’s shirts to use as an alternative. Betty immediately began working to design a comfortable, attractive “hospital shirt” for Mohamed. She took several of his favorite shirts, removed the buttons, stitched up the holes, shortened the sleeves, opened the back, and added piping ties so they would close completely and securely.
The shirts turned out to be functional and stylish. They helped to make Mohamed look his best when friends and family came to visit and provided easy access for the medical care he needed.
Attempts at designing hospital gowns are nothing new. In 1999 the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey redid its gowns with the help of designer Nicole Miller. In 2004 the Maine Medical Center in Portland introduced a floor-length option to accommodate the requests of female Muslim patients. In 2009 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offered a six-figure gift to the College of Textiles to work on designing, producing, and marketing a new style of gown. However, what makes these gowns special is that they are made with love.
When Mohamed passed away in June of 2012, Claire asked Betty if she would be interested in sewing shirts for other hospice patients. Betty said she’d be happy to and set to work.
When word spread of how much patients appreciated the shirts, Thrift Shoppe Volunteer Angie Dometrovich offered to contribute her sewing talents to the project.
Angie and Betty select the shirts that they sew for our patients from the racks at the Hospice Thrift Shoppe in Walnut Creek, and recently began using women’s shirts to make gowns that are a better fit for female patients.
To date, 150 Hospice Shirts have been sewn for our patients. We are indebted to these two wonderful women who have made it possible for our patients to maintain their dignity and comfort during their final days.