From Jacqueline Tolley of St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa:
For more than 20 years, Shirley Green has been caring for AIDS patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Her inspiration came after she witnessed a touching exchange between a doctor and a male patient, and she quickly realized that she could care for these very sick patients, too.
Along with a handful of other team members, Green was part of St. Joseph’s first care team that was especially dedicated to AIDS patients. As medical treatment advanced, and AIDS patients were treated as outpatients, Shirley transitioned to the St. Joseph’s TAMPA Care Clinic and continued caring for AIDS patients.
“I think I felt like it was my calling, my ministry to care for these patients," she said. "I enjoyed it so much back then, and I still enjoy it. Once you do something that is your passion, it goes beyond your heart and into your soul. These patients, each one of them gives us something."
Sadly, many of her patients would lose their battle against the disease.
In 1994, Green learned about the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a national arts project that honored patients who died each year. She thought quilting would be a heartfelt way to honor the hundreds of patients she met each year.
Her first quilt had more than 170 names on it. Since then, she Green has made a quilt each year for World AIDS Day, celebrated December 1.
Her quilt starts with a concept or a theme. Green often draws her vision first and then works for about one week until the quilt panel is complete.
What does she do with all of her quilts? The first quilts were sent to the AIDS Memorial Quilt program and the rest are preserved at her home.
This year, Green’s quilt will have just 10 names on it, and the theme is a waterfall.
“I rejoice in their life when they are no longer suffering,” said Green. “It’s sort of like a celebration of peace at last for that person. That’s how I think of it.”