HCA Florida Bayonet Hospital in Hudson celebrates volunteers who
ease patient recoveries with handmade heart-shaped pillows,
artisan crafts and a fun-loving Yorkie
HUDSON, FL (April 13, 2023) – As the nation celebrates National Volunteer Week, a west Florida hospital in Hudson is hailing its dedicated volunteers, including women who create thousands of handmade heart-shaped pillows and holiday crafts for patients along with a couple whose adorable Yorkshire Terrier brings comfort and compassion to those most in need.
The “Heart Pillow Ladies,” the “Arts & Crafts Ladies” and “Blue” the therapy dog are among 140 dedicated individuals (and pup) who perform close to 24,000 volunteer hours every year at HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital.
“Part of recovering physically is feeling better emotionally,” says Donna Owen, the hospital’s director of volunteers and pastoral care. “Volunteers may not be the heart of a hospital, but they certainly make up its soul.”
“There’s Love in Every Pillow”
Every month, the trio of Janet Day, Roseann Santore and Sonnie Body, affectionately known as the “Heart Pillow Ladies,”hand stuff and stitchheart-shaped pillows for cardiac surgery patients to clutch close to their chest to ease their pain while coughing.
While they’ve stuffed and stitched more than 10,000 heart pillows in the years they’ve been with the program, they all agree every pillow is personal.
“We know every pillow winds up in someone’s arms,” says Janet, who first noticed the pillows when one was given to her husband Mike years ago after his triple bypass surgery at the hospital. To this day, Janet says he still remembers his pillow.
“There really is love in every pillow,” Roseann adds. “The best part is seeing a patient discharged with one of them.”
Handmade Holiday Items Brighten Patient Meals
Every year Eileen Riston and Cheryl Ferro, the “Arts & Crafts Ladies” of HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital, meticulously create novelty items which appear on patient meal trays on Valentine’s Day, Easter, July 4, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
This past Easter, Eileen and Cheryl cut up old greeting cards to create mini-Easter baskets filled with colorful décor and small chocolate eggs for approved patients. Last Christmas, they turned tiny terracotta pots upside down to make fun holiday bells.
The two make over 2,000 handmade items every year and they already are working on items for July 4. Both started volunteering at HCA Florida Bayonet Hospital in other capacities, but their love of crafts attracted them to the opportunity to use their skills to help patients.
“It’s a little something that says ‘someone is thinking about you,’” says Eileen, now in her eighth year as one of the Arts & Crafts Ladies. It’s been five years for Cheryl who adds, “It’s a great way to spend my free time.”
Four-Legged Volunteer Always a Hit with Patients
If you see Donna and Rick Zuhl at HCA Florida Bayonet Hospital, they are probably pulling their beloved skateboard-riding, costume-wearing Blue, a precious six-year-old Yorkshire Terrier who serves as the hospital’s official therapy dog.
Every week, Blue can be seen riding up and down the hospital’s halls, stopping where he is needed to spend time with patients and their loved ones.
Blue was destined to be a therapy dog, Donna says. While on a visit to a local park years ago, he was spotted by an HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital nurse who marveled at how he interacted with children.
“She convinced us to train him to be a therapy dog,” she adds. “He just has the perfect disposition for a hospital setting.”
Countless hours of training included trips to the hardware store to prove Blue wasn’t fazed by sudden loud noises and visits to a nursing home to show he could sit with elderly persons for extended periods of time.
Now accredited by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Blue will soon receive his five-year volunteer service pin as he completes his 500th hour of volunteer service at HCA Florida Bayonet Hospital.
“Doctors and nurses always ask for Blue for their patients and visitors,” says Donna. “We know he makes a difference, particularly with young children who may be visiting a parent.”
About HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital
HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital is a 320-bed, full service acute care hospital that proudly provides inpatient and outpatient services for Hudson and surrounding communities. Our more than 1200 employees and 792 physicians care like family for adults and children of all ages. Key services include 24/7 emergency care, Level 2 Trauma Center, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Heart Center, Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center, Orthopedic and Spine Center, Advanced Surgery Center including Minimally Invasive surgery. Awards and accolades include “A” Patient Safety Grade fall 2022 from the Leapfrog Group and 26 hospital quality awards in 2023 from Healthgrades including the Patient Safety Excellence Award which reflect the hospital’s dedication to delivering better-than-expected clinical outcomes. Affiliated with HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare, HCA Florida Healthcare is a leading collaborative healthcare network connecting approximately 11,000 physicians, 77,000 colleagues, and more than 570 hospitals, physician practices, urgent care centers and other care sites across the state.