Cedars-Sinai Volunteer Delivers Hugs and Crocheted Hearts
Around Cedars-Sinai, Susan Nicholson is known simply as "the heart lady."
That's because since 2013 Nicholson has been making and delivering roughly 50 crocheted hearts each week to patients, visitors and employees—anyone who looks like they could use a spiritual boost.
A Cedars-Sinai volunteer for the past 12 years, Nicholson came up with the idea to create mini crocheted hearts while trying to distract a very sick heart failure patient who had just arrived at Cedars-Sinai from the Midwest.
"Cedars-Sinai was his last hope," said Nicholson, a retired Los Angeles resident who used to be in the rare book business. "He was so sad, so I decided to crochet him a healthy, red heart. As he watched my hands work, his demeanor went from sadness to distracted. When I gifted him the final product, he sobbed. I realized these hearts had a lot of potential for joy."
Since that day, Nicholson has spent a vast majority of her time with heart transplant patients, although her deliveries expand to anyone who may need an extra spark of happiness. Each heart takes approximately two minutes to crochet.
"I always try to gift the hearts to people who may go unnoticed, like the cleaning crews, security guards and cafeteria workers," said Nicholson.
But her zest to spread happiness spreads beyond Cedars-Sinai. She carries extra hearts with her everywhere she goes and hands them out to anyone she thinks could use some extra cheer.
"For anyone who I come across in my daily life that may need an extra little pick-me-up, I offer them a heart and a smile, although many people ask me for a hug by the end of our conversation," said Nicholson. "Whatever I can do to lift other people's spirits and bring them cheer, I will."
Crocheting and volunteering are important staples in Nicholson's life. She began giving back when she was 12 years old, volunteering to help children read. In the late 1980s and '90s, she ran her synagogue's food pantry.
Her love for crocheting began in 2013 after seeing a "yarn bombing" project at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles.
Yarn bombing is a type of street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk. Most of her yarn bombs can be seen in the Fairfax/Olympic area in Los Angeles on objects such as parking meters, stop signs, telephone poles and fences. The bright colors, she says, help "cheer up neighborhoods."
Bin McLaurin, a patient services representative in Cedars-Sinai Cancer, had an opportunity to meet Nicholson in person after seeing—and hearing about—her crocheted hearts throughout the medical center.
"I mentioned that I work in the cancer wellness, resilience and survivorship program and she immediately offered to bring me 30 hearts to share with cancer patients," said McLaurin. "The patients loved them. It was such a special and meaningful surprise."
With each passing year, Nicholson continues to bring joy and meaning to patients and employees throughout Cedars-Sinai. And she doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.
"Cedars-Sinai is obsessed with patient care, and I'm pretty obsessed with upholding my end of that bargain," said Nicholson. "Plus, I get to put smiles on faces every time I step on campus and receive more hugs a day than I can count. I am truly getting the better end of the deal!"
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Handmade Blankets Bring Extra Comfort to Hospice Patients