Crocheting for a Cause: Physicians Making a Difference

I have spent the last decade, and especially the last five years, teaching about the state of healthcare in our country. In particular, I raise awareness about how the busine$$ of healthcare is dismantling the noble profession of medicine and attempting to destroy the central patient-physician relationship that drew physicians to medical school in the first place. As I have written elsewhere, it is a time for courageous champions of change in medicine, and I am blessed to know and collaborate with hundreds of them all over the United States!*

One of these dedicated physicians is my friend and tireless patient advocate, Katherine Gantz Pannel, DO. I met her a few years ago while advocating for patients and physicians at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Since then, an explosion of grassroots activism continues to transform communities all over the nation through physicians empowering one another to be who we are despite the profiteers who would derail us from staying focused on the needs of our patients.**

Dr. Gantz Pannel is a psychiatrist in rural Mississippi with a special interest, training, and expertise in geriatrics. She is the director of an inpatient geriatric unit where 90% of patients have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. “They almost always have anxiety,” she explains. “As their memory declines, I imagine people and places seem new and strange on a constant basis. I have noticed these patients often twist blankets, touch things with texture, roll paper, etc. This seems to distract them and relieve some of their anxiety. It reminds me of stemming behavior in autistic children. The constant movement and tactile stimulation soothes them.”

She adds, “I ADORE my patients. Literally love them all. I wanted to find something I could give patients while on the unit to help soothe them that they could take home when discharged.” She found ‘fidget sleeves’ online but they were expensive ($20 for one!). She felt they didn’t look too complicated to make, but she doesn’t crochet or knit. What to do? How about tap into a network of physician colleagues with big hearts who care about people as much as she does?

“So I took to facebook to just see if I could get someone to make them for me cheaper than I could buy them. Well, it just exploded and took off from there. It restored my faith in humanity. So many people reached out to me and wanted to either make the sleeves and donate them to me or donate the supplies for others to make. I had so many volunteers that I had to start a facebook page to keep up with everyone wanting to help. These people were so excited that they then began adding others to my page, Crocheting for a Cause. Then it spread like wildfire.”

“Now I have people all over the country wanting to help,” she added, amazed. “Mothers and daughters, church groups, people wanting to learn so they can donate … you name it, they want to help. What is also special is that my 9 year-old daughter has been watching this unfold and gets excited with every person that commits to a sleeve. It has even sparked her desire to learn to crochet, so we plan to take a class together. I hope this will continue to grow. I’d love for this to spread all over Mississippi and not to just hospitals but to nursing homes as well!”

Another physician jumped on board and said, “I just wanted to let you know that my Mom and her sewing group are all super excited about this project and hope to be sending many sleeves your way soon!” What began with one compassionate physician thinking outside the box in rural Mississippi is now a community initiative involving people all over the country!

Even beyond impactful advocacy at the state and national level, physicians like Dr. Gantz Pannel are finding creative ways to add meaning and joy to the daily practice of medicine while supporting patients’ medical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and human needs … truly wholistic care! Simple projects like this one anchor us to our roots in medicine to serve the human being in front of us, the whole person. Like Mother Teresa (my role model!) so often said, “We may not all do big things, but we can all do small things we great love.”

Crocheting for a Cause: Get Involved!

Would you like to get involved in this meaningful project to provide fiddle sleeves (or the supplies to make them) to occupy these patients’ hands with something calming that stimulates the brain while preventing skin breakdown from scratching? If you’d like to contribute supplies or crochet some fiddle sleeves for patients, Dr. Gantz Pannel would appreciate any donations sent to her at 1123 East Wellsgate Drive Oxford MS 38655.

If you choose to donate yarn scraps, tassels or add-ons for us to attach or other supplies, you may send them to the address above as well. If you crochet a sleeve, please avoid adding buttons or other small attachments to the sleeves, as they could represent a choking hazard. Thank you so much! And feel free to share this story of physicians coming together to do “small” things that make a difference with great love!

I am so proud and blessed to know so many faithful MDs and DO’s making a difference in the lives of people each day!*** They are faithful in small and big ways. Thank you, Dr. Gantz Pannel, and the army of helpers that has emerged and is eager to make life better for the patients we love.

May this spirit of Christmas remain with us all year!


* I wrote about our need for “courageous champions of change” in my book, Recapturing Joy in Medicine. I first used this phrase referring to medicine in my 2016 article published on KevinMD.

** To be “who we are, true servants at heart” comes from my Poem for Physicians Who Care (A New Lexicon for Physicians) posted on one of my blogs in 2017 and reprinted by Family Practice Management earlier this year.

*** MD stands for medical doctor, and DO stands for doctor of osteopathic medicine. Both are physicians who completed 4 years of standardized medical education PLUS, at minimum, 3 years of rigorous, supervised residency training to become the most highly trained members of the healthcare team and provide the highest levels of medical care to every patient.

Read the UPDATE to this post from 1/11/20, Crocheting for a Cause: An Update!

Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD (Dr. Mari)

I am the author of Recapturing Joy In Medicine and I am passionate about physician wellness, burnout prevention, and Helping Docs Thrive™ in the midst of a broken system in constant flux. As a coach for physicians, I love helping my colleagues develop their strengths, recapture their original calling into medicine, and embark on a path to greater joy, meaning, and purpose in medicine and in life.

2 thoughts on “Crocheting for a Cause: Physicians Making a Difference”

    1. Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD (Dr. Mari)

      Hello! No pattern or instructions. Look for the “Crocheting for a Cause” page on facebook for examples of what the sleeves look like. Thank you for your interest in supporting this great cause!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *