A Reason for Everything: Knitting and Living with Purpose

knitFullSizeRenderHelen McGiffin was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive disease making it difficult to breathe.

One day she couldn’t get out of bed to eat lunch that her daughter, Cathy Keel, had left for her. She called for help and was taken to Altru Hospital. Her left lung had filled with fluid and had to be drained. She had been in and out of the hospital several times before; however, this time was different. Her doctor said she probably had two to three weeks to live and suggested she consider hospice care.

Helen returned home in April of 2014 receiving care from Altru’s Hospice, with her daughter, Cathy, as her primary caregiver. Helen found herself just sitting around waiting to die. Chaplain Kerwin Sletto stopped by her house.

During the visit, Helen asked, “Why am I still here?” Chaplain Kerwin replied, “There is a reason for everything.”

Shortly after, Cathy fell and displaced her hip. Helen and Cathy had to work together to cook meals, wash clothes and complete other household tasks. It was then Helen realized she could go on living while receiving hospice care.

Life with a Purpose
Cathy and Helen dug out a bunch of Helen’s old yarn, and Helen started knitting scarves for the homeless and underprivileged school children. Last fall Helen’s granddaughter, Tiffany Straub, who is a registered nurse in Altru’s Family Birthing Center, stopped to visit. Tiffany noticed Grandma was knitting again and asked if she would knit hats for the newborn babies.

Knitting allows Helen to focus on something other than how she feels and continues to give her a purpose. Now, the days go by quickly. “It takes about a day and a half to knit one hat, and I have probably made over 100 hats for the babies” says Helen.

 Heartfelt Giving
Helen and her husband were the owners of McGiffin’s Hobby Shop for over 30 years. She has always enjoyed making things for other people. She remembers knitting or crocheting gifts for friends and family.

“You just didn’t go to a store and buy a gift; you made the gift especially for them” stated Helen.

She always enjoyed giving to others who had nothing. “Buying a toy as a gift and having it end up in the toy box wasn’t what Christmas was about.”

“Altru’s Hospice has given me an additional year I probably wouldn’t have had.” She is grateful for the wonderful friendships she has formed with the nurses, social workers and staff.

Truly, there is a reason for everything.

Larissa KadlecLarissa Kadlec, community relations coordinator with Altru’s Home Health and Hospice, has been with Altru for eight years. She oversees, plans and implements public relations and marketing activities to support home health and hospice. Larissa enjoys spending time at the lake with her family and dog in the summer and attending UND hockey games in the winter.

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