Cindy Burke of Mexico demonstrates how her husband, Jack Burke, wears a fleece mitten on his hand during his four-hour kidney dialysis treatments three times a week. The mitten keeps his hand and arm warm at the Wilton center, which is kept cold because of the dialysis machine. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — Three times a week Jack Burke has a four-hour kidney dialysis treatment at a Wilton center that’s kept cold to keep machinery running smooth.

Georgette Beauchesne shows a fleece mitten that will keep a kidney dialysis patient’s hand and arm warm during treatment. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

He and 11 other patients there must sit still while their blood is cleansed.

“Your hand gets cold,” Burke said Tuesday at his home with his wife, Cindy.

But thanks to a trip to Florida to see their daughter four years ago, there are no more cold hands.

At a dialysis center there he was provided with a large fleece mitten for his hand and arm to keep them warm.

When the couple returned to Maine, they asked Georgette Beauchesne, Cindy’s aunt and a talented craftsperson, if she could make mittens for Jack. To Beauchesne’s surprise, Jack asked her to make 24 mittens for each dialysis patient at the Wilton center.

After fulfilling his request, Beauchesne decided to share the project with other members of the Rumford Area Quilters. They were in.

“We had some people cutting, some people sewing, some people pinning, and me drawing (the pattern on the fleece) and that’s how it got going,” Beauchesne said.

Since the first workshop about 18 months ago, quilters have given 1,250 mittens to 15 dialysis centers throughout Maine, none of which knew about the mittens, Beauchesne said.

Members of Rumford Area Quilters show fleece they use to sew mittens for kidney dialysis patients in Maine. From left are Georgette Beauchesne, Kathy Thompson, Naomi Robertson, Donna Bucher, Marcelle Miller, Jean Boudreau, Judy Palmer and Mary Pulsifer. Submitted photo

“I was just amazed at how it went from I had no clue even what it was and then to see that we have delivered to 15 places,” Beauchesne said. “The technicians get so excited to have them because they know the patients love them.”

The mitten-making is a labor of love and an opportunity to show compassion.

“I feel like these people are going through terrible times, having to have that done three or four times a week, and sit there for four hours,” Beauchesne said. “And if we can do some little thing that makes them feel a little bit better, that helps them, for me that’s my goal.”

Family members and area residents have donated fleece, but Beauchesne said they could use more material as well as crafters.

She said those making and delivering mittens do so at their expense and some, like herself, are on fixed incomes.

“She’s a kind-hearted woman,” Jack Burke said.

“Very much so,” his wife added.

To donate fleece or to make mitten for dialysis patients in Maine or out of state, contact Beauchesne at 207-364-2835.

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