- MEDINA – Early this year, 3-week-old Chelsea Mayes seemed to have a cold. Her parents took her to the doctor who checked her over and sent her home. Mom, Suzanne Mayes, grew concerned when her baby seemed to get sicker. Returning to the pediatrician, the doctor became alarmed and had the infant transported immediately to Akron Children's Hospital where she was diagnosed with adenovirus and then went into septic shock. She was hooked up to wires and tubes and a ventilator, a terrifying experience for her parents.
Nearly lost in the pile of hand-made blankets sits 2-month-old Chelsea Mayes, who is the inspiration for the "Made by Chelsea Cares" blankets that are being donated to Akron Children's Hospital. (click for larger version)
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Eric and Suzanne Mayes of Medina spent the next three weeks at little Chelsea's cribside. Day and night one or the other or both of them were there aching to hold her. Chelsea's big brother, 3-year-old Ryan, was allowed to be with the family during the stressful time. His mother said the nurses were fabulous. It was very difficult seeing their infant daughter sedated and so wired up they couldn't even hold her. Chelsea was admitted to the hospital on a Tuesday and her mother couldn't hold her until the following Sunday. Suzanne said that was the hardest part for her.
The one bright spot in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) was the colorful fleece blanket Chelsea was laying on. Suzanne said Chelsea was propped up on Beanie Babies and all the color surrounding her seemed to give the family a sense of normalcy in a very un-normal situation. Suzanne made a mental note of a comment she overheard a nurse say about the fleece blanket supply running low.
Three weeks later, when they finally brought Chelsea home – healthy – Suzanne mentioned the blankets that surrounded her baby and the overheard comment. The Mayes' felt such gratitude for the blankets and knowing how much they meant to them, Suzanne was determined to help re-stock the hospital's supply. She prevailed upon friends and family and one evening, as a Lenten project, 75 people met at Holy Martyrs Church in Weymouth and churned out 125 hand-tied (no sewing involved) fleece blankets.
Today, that number has increased to 201 and they are piled in the Mayes' dining room and kitchen awaiting the arrival of labels that say "Made by Chelsea Cares" which will be added to each blanket, then delivered to Akron Children's Hospital to add a touch of cheer for other families going through the anxiety of having their children hospitalized. Suzanne said children having surgery can choose their own blankets and their siblings are also given toys and stickers to ease their fears.
She was very impressed with the medical staff at the hospital, saying they treated Chelsea as if she was theirs. Their care and concern meant a lot to the family and they just feel the need to give back in some way. Suzanne says the blankets are very easy to make and, if others would care to contribute, she is willing to share information on their construction through her e-mail address, Chelseacares1@hotmail.com. She plans another work day this summer when the extended family gets together, though she says finding space and tables to spread out the fabric is a challenge.
Little Chelsea, now 2-1?2 months old, is well and growing and very alert to her mother's voice and touch, a precious gift in every sense of the word. She may or may not face asthma in her future as a result of her illness, but considering what she has already been through, the Mayes' feel they can handle it.
Suzanne truly hopes readers will be touched by their story and feel led to make their own blankets.
"Unfortunately, there will always be sick babies and kids. Even one blanket will mean a lot to that one child and one family," she said. Just the sight of the colorful blankets was therapeutic and helped them emotionally to recover from the stressful period they went through.