A slipstitch in time brings joy, comfort to families in the RNICU

Written by  Emily Stembridge

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Miranda Walton teaches a new big sister how to crochet.
This a yarn about a
group that meets weekly at UAB to knit and crochet and bring joy and comfort to families and premature babies through their time and talents.

To date, Blazing Hooks and Needles, founded by employees Yolanda Hogeland and Martha Griffin, has organized volunteer crochet and knitting teachers to help more than 100 parents with infants in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit create blankets, hats and personalized items for their newborns.

The group meets during their lunch break each Tuesday in the Ronald McDonald Room in the UAB Women and Infants Center, and employees with any level of skill are welcome to join.

Blazing Hooks and Needles provides baby yarn, knitting needles and crochet hooks to families who learn with them. Contact Yolanda Hogeland, Martha Griffin or Alicia Gunter to join the group or donate supplies.

Hogeland, program coordinator for transplant surgery, and Griffin, a project manager for HSIS, realized their shared interest when they ran into each other at a yarn store in 2015. The two began meeting weekly during lunch to knit together, and others soon joined them to learn.

Griffin, inspired by a presentation about ways that activities can help mothers of premature babies cope with stress, encouraged the group to dedicate an additional lunch break to provide a creative, therapeutic distraction to family members in the RNICU.

We believe it is our mission to give back to our patients,” Griffin said. “We share our knowledge and lunch time to support them during their difficult times.” 

In the loop

In addition to helping new families, Blazing Hooks and Needles is fostering a sense of community and collaboration across departments, including Transplantation, Health System Information Services and Rehabilitation Services, consistent with UAB’s Shared Values. The group provides “networking and team-building opportunities for people from different departments to learn with each other,” Griffin said.

Their work also is not without sentimental value.

“We have formed friendships that have transcended retirements and crazy work schedules,” Hogeland said. “Our friendships have gotten us through some tough times — illnesses and deaths of spouses, parents and beloved pets. The group provides encouragement to one another and to these mothers — in knitting, crocheting and life.”