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Cheryl Chapman’s decades of blanketing ICU patients and families with love

<i>WCCO</i><br/>A Minnesota seamstress is making one of the most depressing places brighter. It's a place no one wants to be
A Minnesota seamstress is making one of the most depressing places brighter. It's a place no one wants to be

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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    EDINA, Minnesota (WCCO) — A Minnesota seamstress is making one of the most depressing places brighter.

It’s a place no one wants to be, but it’s the place Cheryl Chapman feels she needs to be.

“So whether it’s the docs, the nurses, the families, it’s what can you do to make somebody else’s day better,” Cheryl said.

For 46 years, she’s been the family liaison for patients at Southdale ICU.

“It’s letting them know that everything that can be done is being done for their family, that we’re there for them as well,” Cheryl said.

Back in October, the family of Maria Soon-Young Byun was on the receiving end of one of those devastating talks.

“It’s still hard to believe that she’s not here,” said Jennifer Park, Maria’s mom.

Maria was a standout dancer, once captain of Edina High School’s team. The beloved 24-year-old was focused on getting her master’s in nursing at the University of Minnesota to support kids with mental health challenges.

“She was always trying to help other people and cheer them up and help them through their struggles. And she didn’t want to burden other people with telling them about her own struggles,” Jennifer said. “She knew that we all loved her and her friends loved her, she knew that, but she just couldn’t love herself enough.”

Maria lost her battle with depression, spending her last days at Southdale ICU.

“Cheryl was there each time and…she just was so warm and caring and she came up to us and told us how sorry she was about Maria,” Jennifer said.

And it wasn’t just talk. Cheryl was about to take action. She prepared a handmade blanket with a personalized pattern for Maria’s bed – a tradition she and her mother started years ago.

Cheryl has now laid quilts on 3,000 ICU beds, blanketing every dying patient with love.

“We always try to do it before they pass away so that it’s on them when the family comes,” Cheryl said. “If you’ve ever had a family member die, you don’t forget.”

Jennifer never will. That quilt is now the centerpiece of their home.

“Maria would have loved these flowers, it was a lovely design,” Jennifer said. “Cheryl knew just which design to choose for Maria.”

And Cheryl knew just what Maria’s family needed.

“It’s a tangible reminder of that dark day when we were going to see Maria and her very last day of life. It’s like a glimmer of hope and love that Cheryl brought us, so we’re very grateful for her,” Jennifer said. “They’re kindred souls. They would’ve really, really loved each other if they had known each other in person.”

Because for Cheryl, just like for Maria, it’s always been about others.

“This provides some comfort for the family, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me,” Cheryl said.

In addition to quilts, Cheryl handwrites a sympathy card for every patient’s family. She also hosts a yearly ceremony to honor organ donors.

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