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Six years ago, Mandy Albers gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy, Keegan. At just two weeks old, he contracted pertussis. This preventable contagion started their family down a path of medical visits that would last for years. Keegan was hospitalized at two weeks old and continued a downward trajectory. At four months old, with no improvement being made, he was referred to a pulmonologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where it was discovered he was drowning in his own fluids. Emergency surgery was scheduled, and Mandy, a first-time mom, found herself at the hospital isolated from friends and family and feeling very overwhelmed.
It was during this time that Cook Children’s Pastoral Care team stepped in to help. Recognizing that a child’s illness and resulting hospital stay can be an incredibly difficult time, the Pastoral Care team offers spiritual guidance and emotional support to people of all faiths, as well as those who don’t have religious affiliations. They aim to lift family’s spirits, ease fears, and offer support during times of need, and they did just that for the Albers family. Mandy reminisced, “When you’re in the hospital and you’re a first-time mom and you don’t really know what’s going on, the hardest part is not understanding anything that’s happening. I remember Pastoral Care coming in and asking if they could pray for us. At that point of his stay, I needed that more than anything.”
Today, Keegan is a smart, happy six-year-old, but his medical journey isn’t over yet. Due to the damage done to his esophageal muscles, he has been in and out of the hospital for most of his young life. With a feeding tube until he was two and a half years old, Keegan received VitalStim, an electrical stimulation device that stimulates the small muscles in his throat and face for improved speech and swallowing. Having just completed his fourth esophageal surgery, Keegan and his mom now work to help other families just like they were helped during that first visit six years ago.
This will be our fourth year. Every year we try to collect more bears than the previous year. COVID definitely slowed us down last year, but we are hopeful to make this year our best year yet. Over the years, we have collected about 1,000 bears. That’s 1,000 families who we have been able to share a little extra love with.
They are very respectful. Before coming into a child’s room they always speak with the parents to ask permission. I personally appreciated the prayer when it was my child in the room, but not all parents do. If the prayer portion is unwanted, we happily donate the bear and ask if there are other ways to bring comfort.
My whole family loves doing this. I feel like I want to continue doing this until Keegan is an adult. I know what a difference it made for my family and want to help other people on their journeys.
There are a lot of different options. If you would like to drop off a bear, we have six different drop-off locations in the Texoma area. If you decide you would like to donate a bear, we do ask that the bears be new, non-scented, and don’t make sounds. We really want to make it as easy as possible for people to donate. If you prefer to make a monetary donation, we purchase the bears and send you a picture showing how your donation was used.
Trott’s Drug | 4122 Call Field Road, Wichita Falls, Texas 76308
Hospice of Wichita Falls | 4909 Johnson Road, Wichita Falls, Texas 76310
Northside Grill | 2710 Central E Freeway, Wichita Falls, Texas 76306
English Pharmacy | 2600 10th Street, Wichita Falls, Texas 76309
Parkway Grill | 2719 Southwest Parkway, Wichita Falls, Texas 76308
Pediatric Associates | 4420 Kimbell Drive, Wichita Falls, Texas 76302
Smith’s Grocery | 220 E Commerce St, Crowell, Texas 79227
*PharmAvail does not monitor donations to this account.