Arlington resident Betty Knight has provided warmth and comfort to hundreds of patients and their families at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.
Knight, 85, spends her free time creating and delivering cozy, lightweight blankets to the hospital’s hospice unit.
She began as a volunteer at the information desk with her sister, who can still be found there once a week. Eventually, she moved to the hospice unit.
“My father-in-law died in hospice in 1991, and I was just amazed at what hospice did,” she said. “I knew I had to work for them somehow.”
Knight first worked with hospice patients when she and her husband lived in East Texas. She volunteered for a local hospital, visiting patients and families in the unit and in their homes.
“I just loved it,” Knight said. “I can’t be around children, because they’re so loud. But I can hold a dying man’s hand.”
After her husband had five strokes, the couple moved back to Arlington in 2005. He passed away about two years later, about the same time the hospice unit opened at Texas Health Arlington Memorial.
“They normally don’t like you to start so soon after losing someone, but I don’t think I waited even six months before I started,” Knight said. “I worked with patients on the floor, but I stopped going to families’ homes because I liked the nurse backup.”
Listening to families
Knight enjoyed sitting with the patients and letting their families tell their story. But eventually she reached the point where she knew she couldn’t keep up her pace.
“I’m 85 and knew I was going to wind down, but I knew there had to be something I could do from my house,” she said. “One day, as I was making blankets for my sister and my kids, I started thinking about the patients. I came up with the idea of doing a blanket that was lightweight and about the size of a hospital bed.”
The blankets are especially meaningful to patients’ families, said hospice nurse Monica Johnson, R.N.
“Those blankets have blessed many family members over the years,” Johnson said. “The families take them home when the patient passes. It’s like taking a part of their loved one home.”
Nurses try to match the blanket to the patient.
“I had one patient who loved elephants,” said Mallory Stout, R.N. “She had more than 200 elephant items at her house and had a cute stuffed elephant on her bed here. We had a blanket with cute little chubby elephants, and her family cooed over it when we gave it to them.”
Help not wanted
Unit employees have offered to help pay for the materials, but Knight wants to do it herself.
“That’s my donation,” she said.
She buys all the fleece material on sale and makes good use of coupons. Occasionally, she gets an even better bargain.
“One day the clerk asked me what I was doing with so much material,” she said. “I told her, and she said her mother had died in hospice here. I was showing her some of the photos of the blankets I’ve done, and she pointed at one, and said, ‘That’s the one.’ So we cried, and we hugged, and she gave me a pretty big discount.”
To personalize the blankets, Knight crochets around the edges.
“I love to quilt, but I can’t do it anymore because I have arthritis in my hands,” she said. “But I found that I could crochet.”
Volunteers like Betty are the heart of the hospital, said Blake Kretz, president.
"I'm consistently humbled by the dedication of our volunteers," he said. "They unselfishly give their time and energy to give our patients and their families a better experience."
Betty has thought about “retiring” several times.
“But when I quit, my hands seemed to hurt more,” she said. “So I think crocheting is therapeutic — socially and mentally, too. I’ll keep it up as long as these hands will do it — or as long as Joann’s has specials.”
About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.