Couple offers tangible comfort; Blankets made for sick children.

Byline: Bonnie Adams

MILLBURY - When a child is critically ill, hospitals such as Children's Hospital in Boston are often, in every sense of the word, life savers. But although those institutions have some of the finest doctors and treatments in the world, sometimes a child needs a little something more to hang onto during what can be a scary time - something like a soft blanket or pillow of their own, lovingly crafted by someone who knows exactly what they are going through - someone like Millbury resident David Perham.

When his daughter Kristina's baby, Brianna Rose Thibeault, was born nearly five years ago, doctors discovered she had a serious heart condition, hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Family members were shocked, Mr. Perham said, because Kristina had had a normal, healthy pregnancy. Tiny Brianna was rushed to Children's Hospital for an operation when she was 4 days old.

Thankfully, after two more surgeries, one at 6 months and another when she was 3, the little girl is now doing well, her grandfather said.

During the child's first hospitalization, Mr. Perham said, he noticed that someone had given Brianna a special blanket.

"A blanket or pillow gives the child something soft to hold onto and Kristina Rose can help distract them," he said. "My wife (Anne Marie) and I thought it was a great idea."

They liked the idea so much they decided to make some blankets and pillows as well. The fact that neither knew how to sew didn't stop them.

"I learned how to use a sewing machine," Mr. Perham said,"and my wife stuffs the pillows."

In the ensuing years, they have donated hundreds of handmade blankets and pillows to Children's Hospital so other kids can have a little bit of comfort during a distressing time.

The couple purchases all the materials. Mr. Perham said this is his way of passing on the kindness that was shared with his granddaughter when she needed it.

The Perhams have also donated several plastic wagons to the hospital's pediatric unit. This, he said, can help kids feel a little less like a patient and more like a kid.

"Sometimes kids have to be hooked up to IV poles or other machines, so they might have to be transported around in wheelchairs," he said. "This way, their parent or someone else can just pull them along instead."

The Perhams' goal is to make a delivery for every holiday, including this Valentine's Day. So dedicated is he to this cause that he spends most of his free time (he also has a full-time job) on weekends and vacations at the couple's cottage in Maine making blankets.

However, blankets, pillows and wagons aren't the only thing this grandpa donates on a regular basis. He also gives blood frequently.

A few years ago, the Perhams donated a sewing machine to the Millbury Senior Center so residents who go there could help make blankets, too. Recently, two women who have participated asked to go along with Mr. Perham when he made a trip to the hospital right before Christmas.

"They said doing this helps give them a purpose," he said.



CUTLINE: David Perham of Millbury, with his granddaughter Brianna Thibeault, 4, on his lap, discusses making blankets with, from left, Jennie DiCicco of Worcester, Pauline Chagnon of Millbury and his wife, Anne Marie Perham.

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