Clinical Center News
Spring 2019

From the House of Hope to the homeless: operating room staff bring warmth to the local community

Surgical staff gather around the blankets they created
Operating Room staff display the blankets created for delivery to Bethesda Cares, a non-profit in downtown Bethesda that assists the homeless. Back Row, left to right: Maureen George, Dr. Jonathan Hernandez, Ellie Custis and Melissa Wheatley. Front Row, left to right: Carrie Wellen, Phuong (Flower) Nguyen and Audrey Murphy.
Phuong (Flower) Nguyen using a sewing machine
Phuong (Flower) Nguyen creates a repurposed blanket for the homeless. The staff sewed 30 blankets from repurposed blue wraps used to wrap surgical, sterilized instrument.
Carrie Wellen grabs a box filled with blankets from the back of her car.
Carrie Wellen delivers blankets to Bethesda Cares for distribution to the homeless.

With a needle, thread and desire to give back, members of the NIH Clinical Center operating room have repurposed surgical cloth into blankets for those experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County.

Seven surgical technologists and nurses donate their personal time to sew a special double ply, water resistant cloth that wraps sterilized surgical instruments prior to any operation. The cloth, which is never inside the operating room during a procedure, cannot be recycled. It's been estimated that the blue sterile wraps account for roughly 19 percent of an operating rooms waste.

"We wanted to reduce the operating rooms' footprint while finding a meaningful way to support our community and give to those in need. The blue wraps are water resistant, durable and warm," said Carrie Wellen, the surgical technologist who began the sewing initiative.

On Feb. 27, Wellen delivered the first batch of 30 blankets to Bethesda Cares, a non-profit outreach organization for the homeless. Bethesda Cares works closely with people experiencing long-term homelessness, helping them find paths to homes.

There are nearly 850 homeless individuals in the Montgomery County area, according to a 2018 survey by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Many will not go to shelters even when the temperatures drop to below freezing. The blankets provide a comforting, warm solution for the homeless.

"The blankets are a wonderful item for our street outreach staff to distribute during the extremely cold period," said John Mendez, Bethesda Cares executive director. "We're truly grateful for the support of the NIH Clinical Center throughout the challenging winter period."

Using their suture skills, the volunteers can typically produce one blanket an hour. Dr. Jonathan Hernandez, surgical oncologist with the National Cancer Institute, donated a sewing machine for volunteers to use before or after work. To become a sewing volunteer, email

The metabolic kitchen staff creating precisely measured ultra-processed and unprocessed meals for study participants
Attendees of the Open Notes session gathered together
Pediatric patient ten-year-old JoJo with Dr. Cynthia Tifft
Branden Bolivar proposes to Marissa Amuso, a patient, May 9 at the NIH Clinical Center
Tom Kaminski with Dr. Sherman Souther
Kayden Reinke, at the age of 2, holding Lammie
Project SEARCH graduates and team
Dr. Marijo Bilusic
Singer-songwriter and pianist Chris Urquiaga
Three women photographed with an award
Man in fatigues talking to care provider
A pediatric patient with her mother and members of the NIH Blood Bank
NIH musical group led by Dr. Collins performing on stage
Dr. Eric Betzig at the podium
Children conducting a science experiment
Trina Davis
Graphic of a cochlear implant
Staff member using a sewing machine
Dr. Saul Rosen
a patient's wristband getting scanned upon checking in or out
Michael Bard, a volunteer medical musician, holds his guitar in a patient room
Nancy Holmfeld
Rare Disease Day logo
People dancing in the atrium
people taking a selfie
Health Information Management Department staff posing for a photo
Young boy holds up a sign that says I love clean hands
FEVS logo
Teresa Bauch showing children cultures of infectious diseases on Take Your Child to Work Day
Staff at the site of a new facility
Woman typing on a Workstation on Wheels computer
Staff view a piece of paper in a kitchen
Men on stage at the awards
Josh and Lisa Danielpour
A redesigned common area in the NIH Clinical Center Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge
Nicholas Rodriquez enjoying the Virtual Reality experience
A young boy voting on gingerbread houses
Retired Navy Capt. Pius A. Aiyelawo speaking at the NIH Veterans Day Celebration Nov. 7
Pediatric patients are given candy by departments at the Clinical Center
a man smiling
Workplace Climate and Harassment Survey. Take the Survey now.
Karen Baker, Dr. Colleen Hadigan and Victoria Anderson stand in a hallway.
Dr. Daniel Kastner examining a patient at the NIH Clinical Center
A nurse provides Dr. Anthony Fauci a flu shot
Food allergy
NIH staff gather at a relay race at the NIH Clinical Center