"I took a selfie, and I posted the picture, and I explained what my goal was, and it caught like wildfire," Barbieri told Boston 25 News Friday. "I never in a million years thought it would get a hundred shares, never mind, I think we're almost at 6,000."
Within hours, on Thursday night, family and friends of three Lowell General Hospital patients had sent photos to Barbieri. She printed them out, and on Friday, she brought them to nurses on their floors to deliver to the patients’ rooms. By Friday afternoon, Barbieri had received five more requests.
The photos – varying from baby pictures to wedding memories to Thanksgiving meals – provide comfort to patients who are ill and may be scared and to their anxious families feeling helpless at home. But families of patients who do not have coronavirus and are not able to visit are also encouraged to send their requests.
“I think bringing in those normal life elements, having families and friends – it’s okay to miss them,” Barbieri said. “But you know what? Here they are. They’re closer. They’re thinking of you. I just think being able to do that for people is really huge right now.”
Barbieri and other medical staff also make regular phone calls and check-ins with family members to keep them in touch and up to date on their loved ones’ progress.
The hospital bought a surplus of cell phone chargers to make sure patients can call and FaceTime with their loved ones around the clock.
But having the physical pictures of family by patients’ beds or taped to their windows is comforting to the patients’ medical teams, too.
"I honestly think that it feels good for the nurses to be able to go in right now and say, 'Hey, look at this positive thing,'" Barbieri said, "because we're in masks, complete protective wear. We're covered, and so I think we feel very impersonal in these rooms."
Barbieri has been using her own money for the project, but many friends and complete strangers have offered donations to support her. Barbieri believes her requests may soon soar, based on the high interest on social media. So, she is working on setting up an account to help cover the costs. She plans to donate any extra money to a coronavirus relief fund or to the hospital.
For those who have family or friends at Lowell General Hospital and wish to send them photos, email Barbieri at PicturesForPatients@lowellgeneral.org.