BALTIMORE -- When Kathryn Fritze was nine in the late 1960s, her family was involved in a horrific car crash. She and three siblings were "scattered around" the homes of different relatives, she said, while her parents recuperated from their injuries and a brother spent months in intensive care.
It was then that the little girl discovered her future vocation.
"I was not one of the people in my family who was the most injured physically, but I was very upset and distressed," said Fritze, now 60.
Her grandmother introduced her to therapies that tuned into the subtle energy around the body and how it connected to the mind.
"It opened my eyes to the importance of tending to the spirit to help the body repair itself and function as it should," she said.
Half a century later when COVID-19 descended upon Maryland, Fritze was a holistic and integrative nurse working at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. As she looked into her coworkers' stressed and worried faces, she knew how she could help.
In late March, Fritze created St. Joe's "Zen Den."
"Health care workers are notoriously negligent when it comes to self-care," said Fritze, noting they were taking care of patients at work and family at home. "They needed a way to decompress."
Fritze commandeered a former classroom between the cafeteria and a gift shop. She filled it with rented plants, soft music, the scent of eucalyptus and mood-enhancing Himalayan salt lamps.
Three stations were set up for guided visualizations. A fourth station featured a therapy table where Fritze performed 10-minute "healing touch" sessions for members of the hospital's staff.