Hospital stay encourages youth to give back
The staff at Doernbecher Children's Hospital is always happy to see 7-year-old Maddi Fallon.
She elicits smiles there, first, because she's recovered from an E. Coli infection that landed her there for 29 days last summer when it developed into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Second, when the Newberg youth returns for follow-up care, she also brings at least a handful of blankets for the hospital to give to other patients.
"We got lots of blankets from friends and St. Peter Church in Newberg knitted us two prayer shawls, so that's where we got the idea," Maddi's mother, Roberta Fallon, said. "Those were our favorite gifts in the hospital."
The idea was to start a small business, Maddi's Lovelies, as a way to comfort other children at Doernbecher in the same way she was during her time there.
Earlier this month, the Fallons celebrated the one-year anniversary of Maddi's release from the hospital by donating 29 blankets, one for every day she spent there.
"We try to drop the blankets off when we have appointments there, but this was special," Roberta Fallon said.
HUS is caused by the abnormal destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), which in turn can clog the filtering system of the kidneys and cause acute kidney failure (uremia) and result in a low platelet count.
With her specific condition, Maddi found the blankets she received especially helpful.
"Lots of people bring toys and coloring books, they're always dropping that kind of thing off, but the blankets are something we still use and when Maddi was on dialysis, she would get really cold," Fallon said. "You can control the temperature in those hospital rooms, but it often felt super cold or super hot, so always having a nice soft blanket was great to have."
Maddi made her first donation in October 2016, but in the time since, Roberta Fallon has set up Maddi's Lovelies as a small business so that for every blanket they sell, one is donated to Doernbecher.
A variety of designs are available online at www.maddislovelies.com, but the Fallons have also begun experimenting with open-house parties where friends and family can come in person to pick out their fabrics.
So far, about 60 blankets have been delivered, although not all of them represent donations generated by a sale, as Maddi just likes to give extras whenever possible.
"We've really been focusing in on it in the last two months," Roberta Fallon said.
Creating the blankets is also a family affair as Maddi picks out the fabric, her mom pins the double-sided designs together, and Maddi's grandmother does the sewing.
Fallon said she is consulting with an accountant to see if will make more sense to operate Maddi's Lovelies as a nonprofit, but for now Maddi is happy enough as long as the blankets make their way to Doernbecher.
"She loves it and she tells everybody," Roberta Fallon said. "I think she would like to learn to sew. She keeps bugging my mom to teacher how to do the sewing and she helps me with the pinning."