As the only hospital in Centre County, Pennsylvania, Mount Nittany Medical Center receives all kinds of patients, including everything from car crash victims to those who need to report a sexual assault. But almost every patient faces the same dilemma: They don’t have anything to wear when they are discharged from the hospital. Victims of assault usually relinquish their clothing as evidence, and a major car accident can ruin the survivors’ clothing. Some may even need to have their clothes cut off in the emergency room.
So, nurse Jenn Traxler set out on a mission to make sure everyone at the hospital had something to wear when they went home. She joined the crew at Mount Nittany Medical Center in 2008 and launched the clothing drive last spring.
“It doesn’t matter what happens; we’re all human. Things happen to us every day. I want people to know there’s somebody out there that thinks that — no matter what happens, no matter what the situation is — you’re important,” Traxler said.
“I want you to be comfortable. I want you to know that somebody thinks about the fact that you might come in soiled and that’s OK. That you might come in having had a trauma happen to you that was totally out of your control. We’re going to send you out hopefully feeling as comfortable as we can get you until you can get home.”
She even enlisted her mother Regina Barton to pitch in. Their family lived on a meager salary when Traxler was growing up. They were always “pinching a penny” and recycling old hand-me-downs to keep everyone clothed.
And now she is using the same idea to make sure patients don’t feel humiliated or embarrassed when they leave the hospital. Having clothing that fits can provide “some semblance of comfort when they leave the ER,” she added.
“You don’t know the story. You don’t know what’s going to happen and what’s going to bring these people in. The least that we can do is put them in something comfortable to wear home.”
The team is collecting new or gently used sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, sports bras, underwear, and socks for people of ages and sizes. They tend to turn away jeans and shoes that need to be tied, as they may be uncomfortable for some patients. Loungewear and slip-ons provide the right amount of comfort for those leaving the hospital.
“No matter what walk they come from,” Traxler said. “They deserve to be treated with kindness and courtesy and compassion.”