Most wouldn’t give a second thought to what they are wearing when they head to the emergency room out of medical necessity. However, for others, it is a very real concern whether they have appropriate clothing for such a trip.
As a social worker at Life Links for 13 years and now a care coordinator at Sarah Bush Lincoln for the last 3½ years, Rachel Duhamell has met numerous community members from children through adulthood who are coping with a lack of adequate clothing during a time of stress, like a health crisis. This was never more obvious then when Rachel began working in the SBL Emergency Department.
“We see medical emergencies that lead to someone having no clothes,” Rachel explained, “Their clothes may need to be cut off of them, or they’ve been soiled with blood or fluids. I thought it would be nice to offer more than paper scrubs.”
That thought led Rachel to create the SBL Clothes Closet in January 2017. She says, “It’s just three cupboards,” but in those cupboards are items that can restore the faith and dignity of people who are struggling, inpatient folks who have no family members to bring clothing when they go home, or those who have faced a medical emergency in which their clothes were ruined. Comfortable clothes like pajama pants, t-shirts, baby clothes, even socks and underwear are available to anyone in need.
“I opened the Clothes Closet for a variety of reasons,” Rachel said, “I see lots of homeless people in our ED and I’m on the board at PADS, so I guess you could say my passion is for the homeless and the mentally ill.” Rachel didn’t stop there, though. Her project paved the way for another local woman who began providing the emergency room with activity bags for children. The handmade bags contain items to calm and entertain children like a coloring book and crayons.
The Clothes Closet has served a steady stream of patients, recently helping four families in one day.“ I always put myself in their shoes and try to be compassionate,” Rachel said, “How would I feel? Everyone deserves respect.”
The Clothes Closet is located in Care Coordination in the Emergency Department. All employees can access the Closet for their patients who are in need. If you would like to donate to the Clothes Closet, men’s and women’s underwear, jogging and pajama pants, and plain t-shirts in sizes small through 3 XL are currently needed. Donations can be dropped off at the SBL front desk, inside Entrance A during regular business hours.