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Low-tech innovations make a big difference to Craig patients

January 29, 2014

Tucked away in a corner of the third-floor therapy gym, you’ll find a small room overflowing with industrial sewing machines, fabric, Velcro, and notions.

Within these walls, three dedicated sewing room volunteers design and create all manner of things to make life easier for Craig patients and graduates, from sheepskin-lined underwear to wheelchair bags.

“The Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists come to us with ideas,” says Terri Fordyce, a volunteer who works in the sewing room one day a week. “We’ll try anything once.”

Fordyce and the other volunteers—including a 30-year volunteer Mort Balkema— make about a dozen items a week. Their products include bags, straps, wheelchair cushion covers and cuffs to help hold a toothbrush or other personal care item. They also do clothing alterations and repair work for the cushions and straps on the equipment in the PEAK Center at Craig Hospital.

While there are some companies that make these types of items, through the work of the volunteers, Craig is able to offer them to patients for only the cost of materials. Nothing costs more than $10, and if the materials cost less than $2.50, there is no charge.

Among Fordyce’s most memorable projects is a special harness that allowed a squirmy toddler to ride safely on his dad’s lap and a “mermaid tail” that helped a swimmer control leg spasticity in the water.

“There are no patterns for these type of things, so it’s a lot of trial and error,” she says. “I like the puzzle part of it, and there are no two days that are the same.”

Fordyce volunteers in the sewing room from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. one day a week.

“I get great personal satisfaction from it,” she says. “At Craig sometimes it’s the tiniest little thing that makes a world of difference to our patients and grads.”