Hospital’s ‘friendly competition’ helps people in need

October 18, 2011

By Marissa Loew

Colorful blankets are being sewn by Polly Weisbrod, a nurse at Swedish/Issaquah. Photo By Marissa Loew

Scraps of colorful fabric cover Polly Weisbrod’s apartment, where she sews fleece quilts to donate to the homeless.

“The amount of fabric is slowly dwindling down as I’m putting quilts together,” she said.

Weisbrod works as a nurse in the neuroscience department at Swedish/Issaquah. The quilts are part of a hospitalwide competition.

The hospital, which opened to the public in July, is motivating its staff to improve the hospital system to benefit patients and help local communities through a friendly competition, called the Ambulatory Challenge. Begun in August, judges score the teams on several categories, including community service.

Members of the neuroscience team, called the Brainiacs, decided they would donate homemade blankets and hats, as well as business clothing and toiletries to local charities.

They are giving the blankets, hats and toiletries to the Seattle Union Gospel Mission Shelter and the clothing to a battered women’s shelter.

“I know it goes to a good place,” said Taylor Schupbach, a patient service representative, who has volunteered at the shelter.

“We thought about people who were homeless and people who just need something warm with the upcoming cold months,” said Cyleste Huynh, a patient service representative. “Blankets are more personal, something you can wrap around yourself, and (being) homemade (they) would help cheer a person up.”

Weisbrod volunteered to spearhead the quilt and tie-blanket project, and does all the quilt sewing.

“It was a little nerve-wracking because I started a quilt when my son was born and I still haven’t finished it,” she said.

But she thought sewing was one thing she could contribute and she has already finished about 10 blankets in just three weeks.

“One night I was watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m up at 10:50 still sewing,’” Weisbrod said.

She devotes about three hours of sewing every day, even when she is sick.

Each quilt is sewn using donated fabric from at least three people.

“It was nice to go back to the local community here in Issaquah … for donations to make blankets and put them back out to an area that’s not as fortunate as Issaquah,” Weisbrod said.

After she finishes a batch of quilts, she brings them into the office.

Dr. Lily JungHenson, chief of staff and medical director for Neurology Services, is excited when she sees the blankets for the first time and always exclaims, “Oh my gosh, oh my goodness!”

Henson’s mom, Anna Jung, knits the hats. Black and maroon beanies are stacked in paper bags on the office floor.

“Check these out! These are the coolest hats,” JungHenson said.

“I’d buy these,” Huynh exclaimed.

Since JungHenson does not sew or knit, she cleaned out her drawers and gave body- care products.

“I do a lot of traveling, so I do accumulate a lot of hotel toiletries,” she said. My team “is intent on making this work, so my job is just to help provide some of the supplies.”

The Brainiacs are currently in second place behind the Daymakers, the retail floor team.

Pamela Larison, wellness navigator at The Shops at Swedish, is ecstatic that her team is winning. One of the many events the Daymakers are hosting is A Perfect Fit, where women receive a free bra fitting Oct. 25. They are also collecting headscarves, hats and gently used prostheses to donate to the American Cancer Society.

“Our goal is to bring all the resources the hospital offers to all members of the community, “Larison said about the Ambulatory Challenge, “and to be an integral part of the community for Issaquah.”

The winners of the challenge will get a monetary prize.

“A good little Christmas gift for the team,” said Huynh, who “whoops the team into shape,” according to Henson.

“Being the competitive human beings we are, we’re very hell-bent on winning this Ambulatory Challenge,” JungHenson said. “And it’s all for a good cause … in terms of helping the hospital grow and in terms of helping the community.”

“Who knows what’s going to happen in the future,” Huynh said. “But we’d definitely like to continue this.”

Marissa Loew is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at

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