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Troy Regional Medical Center opens ‘Hug Station’

Hugs say more than words can say.

On that premise, the Troy Regional Medical Center “family” recognized that physical touch is important and that social isolation is real and can lead to extreme loneliness and depression.

More than a year ago, the world was silently invaded by a virus that was numbered so that no one who experienced the invasion would forget the year 2019.

Amy Minor, TRMC chief clinical officer, said, for more than a year now, in the clutches of COVID-19, America’s people have forced themselves to socially distance themselves from loved ones in the name and safety of infection control.

“While social distancing is still of paramount importance, the TRMC Senior Behavioral Care Center discovered a safe way to allow for hugs and physical touch during the toughest of times,” Minor said.

TRMC has constructed a Hug Station that allows two people to physically hug each other without exposing themselves to the coronavirus that is preventing close physical contact between even husbands and wives and parents and their children.

The TRMC designed Hug Station was the conceived idea of members of the TRMC family, including Minor, Rachel Garrett, senior behavioral social worker, M.J. Melton, senior behavioral social worker, Donna Bradley, director of senior behavioral unit and Daughtrey O’Quinn, Troy University social work intern.

O’Quinn was charged with bringing reality to the idea.

“The Hug Station is actually rather simple,” O’Quinn said. “It’s basically a hanging sheet of heavy plastic with four holes, two higher than the other two, that allows for two people, one on each side of the plastic, to put their arms in long plastic gloves, reach through the holes and safely hug each other.”

O’Quinn’s plan was to use PVC pipes to construct the Hug Station. He went to Wallace Pump and Supply in Brundidge to purchase the materials.

Chip Wallace, business co-owner, was familiar with the concept of a hug station. He had actually constructed a small-scale hug station for his daughter’s special education class. He understood the significance of such a station.

“Katie’s class has benefitted from the hug station and I knew it would mean that much and more to residents of nursing homes who had not been able to hug their loved ones in a year or more,” said Wallace who donated the PVC pipes and joints to the TRMC Hug Station project.

“We’d like to thank our community partner, Wallace Pump and Supply, for donating the materials we needed to build our hug station,” Minor said. “We’d also like to thank our Senior Behavioral Care Center staff for working so hard on this project that we hope will inspire families to create a safe station for their loved ones.”

The TRMC Senior Behavioral Care Center donated its hug station to Troy Health and Rehab on Thursday and a second station will be donated to Luverne Health and Rehab.

Dorothy Thompson, Troy Health and Rehab, activities director, expressed appreciation to TRMC and the TRMC Senior Behavioral Care Center for the donation of the hug station.

“At Troy Health and Rehab, we understand what a hug means, especially to our residents who are isolated from their families,” Thompson said. “The hug station will give them a way to experience the warmth and love of a hug in a different way. That will mean a lot.

Minor said the most fragile of our population often live in nursing homes and have been severely impacted by the inability to spend time with their families.

“As regulations are being lifted allowing in-person visitation, our goal is to provide an additional safeguard to allow much-needed physical touch.

“Physical touch is so important, it adds comfort and wellbeing. It is therapeutic and everybody needs it.”