Front row, from left: Lauren Toman, TCMH director of respiratory; Bennett Montgomery, Helping Hands volunteer; Kathy Carr, TCMH RN house supervisor and Helping Hands volunteer; Lynnette Cantrell, Helping Hands director. Back row: Courtney Owens, TCMH nursing administration; Chris Strickland, TCMH CEO; Shelby Ellison, TCMH case manager; Shelly Rust, TCMH director of medical surgical; and Aezia Cowan, TCMH director of registration.

Texas County Memorial Hospital’s frontline staff were the recipients of 250 crocheted “worry worm” stress relievers donated by Helping Hands in Cabool.

The Helping Hands group was organized in March 2020 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lynnette Cantrell, Helping Hands director, recognized a need to help those in the Cabool area who were down on their luck, experiencing poor health or simply needed a helping hand from time to time to get back on their feet.  The group assists between 10-20 different families per month either through food donations or home care items.

“Helping Hands group centers their focus on kindness and encouragement,” Cantrell said. “Everyone is experiencing some really bad times right now, and it’s a small way we can help show others we care.”

Kathy Carr, Helping Hands member and registered nurse, explains that she witnessed one of her patients at another hospital distribute crocheted “worry worms” to all the healthcare workers as stress relievers during the pandemic.  

The patient explained how they originated in Europe.  A premature baby was in NICU, and a grandma crocheted a worry worm to give to her great-granddaughter. The granddaughter laid the worm on the baby’s belly. The next day the grandma got a call from the hospital and asked if she could make 15 more worms for other NICU babies.  Then other hospitals and foster homes started calling and asking for the worms. Seemingly, the curly Qs on the worm seems to do “something” to the babies and help them improve.  

“When one of your patients cares enough to put their own cares aside and give you a little something to show kindness is pretty special,” Carr said. “It was very heart touching and I still carry the worm in my pocket at work.” She immediately discussed with Cantrell the possibility of making these for the TCMH staff to show their appreciation and offer encouragement.

According to Cantrell, she is the crocheter, but it is a team effort to create them.  Carr, and her daughter, Lyndsey, TCMH ER, along with Kathy’s grandson, Bennett, completed the crocheted project with placing eyes on the worms, adding a little note, and individually bagging them for distribution.  The process to make the 250 worms for TCMH started about 6 weeks ago.      

Cantrell explained that TCMH serves the Cabool community. The hospital is helping us, so we wanted to show our appreciation to the healthcare workers with this small gesture.

“The worry worms were greatly appreciated by our staff on Med-Surg and ICU,” Shelly Rust, TCMH medical surgical director, said. “We have faced tremendous struggles both personally and professionally with the current wave of COVID. Just knowing that the public is supporting our staff means so much to every one of us.  We really appreciate the heartfelt gesture as well as the story behind the worry worms.  It’s gestures like these that make us grateful to do what we do day and night.”

“We enjoy helping people whenever we can,” Cantrell said. “If it gives just a little bit of joy to our TCMH frontline healthcare workers for all they do, then it was well worth our effort.”

For additional information about the Helping Hands program or to consider donating, contact Lynnette Cantrell at 417-260-1050.

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