UW News

November 24, 1999

Shelton woman provides Thanksgiving dinner for families of intensive-care patients at UW Medical Center

She was grateful for the support and nurturing provided by other caring people when her son spent days in intensive care before succumbing to injuries suffered in a car accident near Boston seven years ago.

And so Sandi Claudell, now a resident of Shelton, Wash., decided to help other families with loved ones hospitalized in critical condition, people who couldn’t imagine staying away from the hospital on a holiday.

This Thanksgiving will be the third year in a row that Claudell has provided a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for families of patients hospitalized in University of Washington Medical Center’s Critical Care Unit. For several years prior to her move to Washington, she provided the same service at a hospital in Boston.

After days of grocery shopping, roasting turkeys, preparing casseroles, fixing salads, and baking breads and pies, Claudell and three other volunteers from her church will serve a Thanksgiving feast for 50. They’ll set up a holiday buffet in the waiting area of the Critical Care Unit.

“The people who helped me after my son’s accident made a huge difference in my ability to cope,” said Claudell. “My thought was, how can I recreate that kind of caring for others?” With her second son out of the country, and with the desire and ability to prepare a big holiday meal, she decided that a holiday feast for others was just the ticket, for them and for her.

“Within a few minutes after people sit down, it’s like the big family dinners you always remember,” she said. “People are talking and laughing and visiting and vying for the last piece of pie. In a small way, it makes people forget the stress of having a loved one in the hospital.”

“This is an incredible service that Sandi and her friends provide,” said Sherri Del Bene (BENNay), nurse manager in the Critical Care Unit. “She really embodies the spirit of Thanksgiving. It makes such a difference to the families of our patients at a very stressful time in their lives.”

After dinner, Claudell and her friends will package up the leftovers and refrigerate them for the families to take home. If there are enough leftovers, she’ll transport them to a shelter for the homeless.

And then, she’ll start thinking about Christmas Day, when she’ll repeat the whole process, with the help of a young family who also donate their time to the effort.