Mary Clements, a local Long Beach resident is one of the many parents that have had to find a balance between their kid's playtime and doctor appointments. Hospital visits become the norm when your child is diagnosed with a syndrome or illness. The process doesn't get easier when your child cries out begging for relief during visits, yet there is nothing more you can do but hold their hand?
But what if there was a way to make your kid comply with the treatment process? What if there was a way to get your child to even smile throughout the process?
All these questions ran through Mary’s mind when her son Patrick was diagnosed with a rare bone disease, McCune-Albright syndrome. Due to his condition, Patrick was placed in a hospital program that resulted in his family going to the hospital every year to go through testing and treatments.
The hospital would assign Patrick a locker that he would be able to return to after long days of being tested. Toward the end of each day, he patiently anticipated going back to his locker because every day there was something inside that surprised him with joy.
Mary soon realized that it was the little things that made her son smile. She then shifted her interest toward making all pediatric patients happy. In result, she made 125 vibrant surgical caps and took them down to Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach.
Without a doubt, the caps were a huge success. It wasn't long until Mary figured out that the hospital does 450 pediatric surgeries a month. By the spring of 2018, a light bulb flickered off in her head to make more surgical caps and deliver them to the hospital every month.
Although, Mary knew she couldn't make all the surgical caps by herself. She decided to gather her friends and started writing notes for neighborhood areas to donate and participate. They ended up getting a plethora of responses, resulting in a group of 14 ladies being formed.
“Our purpose is the kids,” Clements said. “A lot of us are locals and even neighbors. Some of us have had kids in the hospital and it's just a sterile environment; the caps give color to the dull environment.”
Over the past year, the Caring Surgical Caps Ladies have made over 3,000 surgical caps from scratch with print designs tailored toward kids. The cap themes range among cartoon figures, seasons and holidays. With the hospital containing pre-teens and young adults too, the team caters designs for them too.
“I would never be able to do this without the women involved. They come every month and even do the work at home,” Clements said. “We are all from different walks of life and we come together to do something good. The nicest part is that we all become friends.”
Once the surgical caps are delivered, they then get put into medical kits for pediatric patients. Within each kit, a child is provided with doctor attire and nursing accessories to dress up and play with.
Clothing attire such as the surgical caps, clean gloves, masks and bandages are provided. Accessories on the other hand range among alcohol swabs, syringes without needles and even a sick patient doll that the kids get to take care of.
“The purpose of the caps and kits is to help the kids prepare before surgery, that way they have a better understanding of what is going on when they are going into surgery,” said clinical operations manager at Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach, Rita Goshert.
The caps and kits then get distributed to pediatric patients in the child center or surgical center of the hospital. They can also be found sported on an inpatient child staying at the hospital or on soon to be inpatients. During surgeries, pediatric patients get to wear their selected surgical cap underneath the sterile hats.
“Having these fun decorated caps really makes all the difference and the kids face when they see the caps says it all,” Goshert said. “In their head, you can tell they are thinking, ‘Wow I get to dress up like a doctor.’ They love picking out the caps and it's a very engaging experience with the medical staff that makes the surgery process easier.”
Goshert highlights how every child that has gotten a cap immediately wants to put it on. Their attitude changes and they are more willing to practice surgery procedures, especially the things that are anxiety producing. The caps are an ice cream that helps all around with the comfort level.
The Caring Surgical Caps Ladies have provided and previously been donated supplies to make the surgical caps, although now they are running out of the fabric that brings smiles across pediatric patients. With the hospital performing 450 surgeries a month, the Caring Surgical Caps Ladies need about 115 yards of fabric each month to produce enough surgical caps to cover roughly all pediatric surgeries.
Donations for gift cards from JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores, Fabric Bar, Amazon, and yard fabric that's cotton novelty print is accepted. Cash is not accepted because the Caring Surgical Caps Ladies group is not an organization. For donations please contact (562) 537-7947.
“I love the fact that we have three generations of a family in this group. I think it’s a really important character trait to hand down to the little ones,” Clements said. “I think doing something for other people besides yourself is something that needs to be taught at a young age.”
Special thanks to the Caring Surgical Caps Ladies: Patricia Casillan, Kim Robinson, Susanne Thompson, Debra Nunes, Lilly Lanham, Jean Foley, Karin Simon, Pamela Abel, Merrill Bee, Carol Cook, Lisa Lanham, Lilly Lanham, Claudia Morrett and Mary Clements