Several years ago when Mimi Waterman was having a small cyst removed, the
surgeon carefully draped a blue cloth with a stitched, circular opening to
isolate the incision area.
She smiled and told him she had a hand in making that surgical drape. In fact,
she knows what goes into making those drapes, from beginning to end.
The surgical drapes are just one of the many handiwork items produced by the
Vanderbilt Sewing Club, a group with a tradition of collegiality and caring
stretching back to the Great Depression.
About 15 women gathered at the home of Melinda Balser, wife of Vice Chancellor
for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D.,
for their September meeting. (The photographs accompanying this story were
taken at a later meeting).
Waterman had gathered discarded sheets from the Shared Laundry at Metro Center,
the facility which does laundry from several hospitals, including Vanderbilt’s. Mary Ann Hash and Judy Lefkowitz took the sheets and tore them into
rectangles while others in the assembly line, which began in the Balser’s living room, cut out the opening traced with a coffee can lid, pinned and
Maisie Roden, standing at the ironing board, usually is responsible for lugging
the heavy sewing machines, supplies and materials to each meeting. The room
hummed with conversation and laughter as the ladies worked.
Perched near the ironing board, 92-year-old Alice Bugel comes mostly to
socialize these days. Like many of the group members, she was a nurse. She took
her nursing experiences to the battlefields in World War II and later was long
time supervisor in charge of surgical wards and recovery at the VA Hospital
here. She was married to the late Harry Bugel, M.D.former chief of physical
medicine and rehab at the VA.
“Being a nurse, I was able to make some of the patterns” for the items the Sewing Club produces, she said.