Forever in our heart: Special stuffed animals help hearts heal - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Forever in our heart: Special stuffed animals help hearts heal

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

Mothers remember their children with keepsakes, like their baby’s first outfit and their first stuffed animal.  For one Rathdrum, Idaho, mom, the bear she holds to remember her son is extra special because of what’s inside.  Jodi Peterson, her daughter, Hannah, and her son, Gage, each hold and cherish a teddy bear with a recording of Jodi’s late son, Steele.

Jodi was pregnant with twins, Steele and Gage, when she found out that Steele had severe health complications.  She gave birth to both of them, but only Gage survived.  Steel lived for 63 days in the hospital before he died of leukemia. 

Before he passed, his mother made a recording of her baby boy breathing on his ventilator machine.  She put that recording device into a teddy bear that she says has saved her time and time again.  Jodi says the comfort of hearing her baby boy breathe gave her strength to carry on even after his death.

Nurse Carolyn Ringo stood by Jodi through the process of delivering her son and laying him to rest.  Ringo works at Sacred Heart as the Director of the Forget-Me-Not  and Sunflower Programs, programs designed to support expecting mothers with high-risk pregnancies.  Sometimes babies born to those mothers do not survive, and Ringo’s job is to stand by these women through their pain.  Part of that includes helping them collect and record every memory of their child, including a Build-A-Bear with their child’s heartbeat inside.

Seven years after Steele’s death, Jodi hopes to bring comfort to mothers just like her.  Her family donates hundreds of bears to Ringo and Sacred Heart’s programs, making trips every couple of months to Spokane with bags of teddy bears.  Hannah and Gage do their part, too, to keep their brother’s memory alive.  They make beaded bookmarks and sell them at craft fairs.  They use the money from the craft fairs to buy bears for expecting mothers and their babies.

Ringo says the hope is that the teddy bears will go home with mothers and their newborns.  She says that’s often the case.  Still, tears come to Jodi’s eyes when she says she knows that often times these teddy bears go home in place of babies.  Despite the pain and loss, Jodi hopes to help heal hurting hearts by revealing her own.

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