Dealing with the stress of medical school studies two years ago, Dr. Allen Reeves, at the suggestion of an operating room nurse, found the best medicine for him was in those other needles: knitting.
Mind you, he didn’t know how to knit at the time. Not a problem. The Texas native, then a student at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), turned to YouTube videos to learn the craft.
To hear the resident physician in internal medicine at Akron General Medical Center tell it, he wasn’t the least bit intimidated. That’s because learning new things is part of his DNA.
Prior to entering medical school in his 30s, Reeves was a mathematician and then spent 11 years as a software engineer. “It got to the point that I was doing less engineering work and more management, which was becoming very repetitive. … I always had the idea of doing medicine. So I decided I would go to medical school.”
It was a heady decision for sure; but one fueled by Reeves’ long-held, be-true-to-himself philosophy: “I never want to look back with regret of not doing something I really wanted to do.”
Like his other career paths, Reeves believes going into medicine was a natural evolution of what he calls his “engineer’s brain.”
Knitting — albeit a far different pursuit — seems a good fit, too.
“I’ve found knitting to be very relaxing,” Reeves said. “Focused inattention, I call it. I can do it and it doesn’t completely occupy my thoughts. I’ve been known to do it in the movie theater, at a bar or even in meetings when appropriate.”
Reeves has become rather prolific, producing all manner of scarves — one Harry Potter-style in gold and maroon, another in the pattern and color of the flag of Poland for a fellow intern from that country.
This week he’s been sporting a Santa hat — which, of course, he knitted — while making rounds. “The patients seem to like it. And I think it makes me more approachable,” he opined, adding, “I don’t take myself super seriously, but I do take my job seriously!”
Reeves even has found time in his busy schedule to join a knitting group.
The humor of it all is not lost on him: “There are times when my girlfriend is watching Ohio State football and I’m sitting there knitting.”
While friends and colleagues are often on the receiving end of Reeves’ creative yarn works, one community nonprofit found itself on that lucky list this holiday.
“Recently, he knitted an Akron General logo stocking,” said Amy Kilgore, manager, internal communications. Earlier this week the staff in the hospital’s department of medicine filled the stocking with all kinds of personal-care items for clients at ACCESS, an Akron homeless shelter for women and children.
Reeves — who has yet to warm up to crocheting and maybe never will — has his hands full with the practice of medicine and his knitting.
“Time enjoyed is never time wasted!” a smiling Reeves said.
Friend of strangers
Special holiday cheer for Twinsburg’s Irene Mekker, a 78-year-old volunteer at the Cleveland Clinic’s Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center who spends time twice a week in the oncology infusion center, bringing encouragement to those battling cancer.
It’s not an easy mission, yet it’s one she heartily embraces. Given her family history — her mother, brother and uncle died of cancer — she figures if not her, then who would befriend these very vulnerable patients?
“When volunteering in the oncology infusion center, she brings patients snacks and blankets and spends time with them, simply chatting,” wrote Jenny Popis, corporate communications manager at the clinic.
“Throughout the year, on her own time, she also crochets blankets, hats, gloves and scarves for patients, knowing that they will be cold this time of year. This year alone she has crocheted 53 afghan blankets. She has touched the hearts of numerous patients with her generosity, her warm smile and encouraging words. She spends hours, days, weeks, months giving back to others. … The nurses and oncologists all know her by name, love her spirit and can attest to how much her kind efforts help the patient experience.”
“Irene has never asked for recognition,” Popis continued. “I just thought maybe there was an opportunity to share her story and show that acts of kindness still have such an impact on people today. Especially during the holidays, it is so easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of it all … And there are people like Irene.”
Crafting comfort for vets
Laura Williams Dunlop, an Army Korean War veteran and super volunteer at the VA Clinic who is always threaded into good things in the community, shared the following about the North Hill Needlecrafters’ continuous work, knitting for our veterans:
“This group of volunteers started out meeting, knitting and donating their items back at O’Neil’s through a program sponsored by Oasis, and then they were invited into North Hill Library where they meet today. This quarter their items included 10 wheelchair lap robes, three leg lap robes, nine afghans or single bed robes, eight shawls, 22 scarves, 100 hats, one bed sock and ditty bags with a total of 154 items this time. … These handmade items are then delivered to our area Akron VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic where they were provided to the veterans at the clinic.”
VA nurses attending to home-bound veterans often take lap robes to them “as a special treat to keep their legs warm as they sit in a chair or wheelchair,” Dunlop noted.
These knitters, coordinated by Barbara Austin, are Jean Selby, Jeannie Dragonier, Evaday Stull, Margaret Fergus, Eleanor Lechtensiger, Mary E. Long, Mary Lou Allman, Ramona Hull, Alice Ryne and Salley Ricchiuto.
Local radio helps others
Job well done, WAKR radio, for the “Share a Christmas” campaign, which has partnered with the Salvation Army for the last 54 years an in effort to make Christmas bright for area families in need.
Joyce Lagios — vice president, promotions/marketing for WAKR/WONE/WQMX — calls it “the longest holiday help program in the state, raising more than $10,000 for the benefit of the Salvation Army of Summit County …
“Throughout the past week, listeners bid on items like rides for two on the Goodyear blimp, golf with former Indians manager Mike Hargrove at Glenmoor Country Club, a fan experience with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the new RubberDucks, and an autographed guitar from the country mega stars Brooks & Dunn.”
Kenmore prepares feast
Big, beautiful bouquets to Kenmore High School’s Family Career & Community Leaders of America unit, led by family/community science teacher Cheryl Marez. The students purchased and prepared 12 turkeys and sides for Salvation Army’s Project RISE Harvest Dinner for area families experiencing homelessness. Kenmore High School staff and students helped with the purchase. Project RISE is an acronym for Realizing Individual Strength through Education.
Akron Public Schools teachers and students donated 150 dinner rolls, two pans of apple crisp, 10 pounds of corn and 60 cookies, wrote Rachel Breece of Project RISE, and other dishes were provided by the shelters, Project RISE staff and Advisory Council members. “Executive Director Debra Manteghi’s Family Homelessness class at the University of Akron [including several members of the Zips football team] also attended to the delight of the children.”
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or email@example.com.