December 12, 2012 | LXXII, No. 37

Teddy bear lady does it for the kids at Coulee Medical Center

Youngsters in the Coulee Medical Center (CMC) Emergency Room have a special advocate when it comes to reducing anxiety and stress. It stands about 15 inches tall, is soft and cuddly and is the creation of a local woman who needed one, once, for her own granddaughter.

CMC employees Mike Peterson, Nicole Leahy, Tjode Miley, and Tyler Donn display Gross’ Teddy bears. — submitted photo

Maureen Gross of Coulee Dam, “the Teddy bear lady,” as many call her, has, for the past four years built Teddy bears out of donated and leftover fabric. Once completed, she donates the bears to the CMC Auxiliary, which uses them as the circumstance arises in pediatric care cases.

Gross, a retired nurse, says her pattern makes a “simple little bear with a cute face.” Each one is suitably stuffed with non-allergenic poly fill that, she says, makes them “nice for children to hug.”

Historians trace the Teddy bear’s origin back to 1902 when the first plush animal was named “Teddy’s Bear” for President Theodore Roosevelt. It has been the favorite toy of many children ever since.

“Kids just have this magical connection with Teddy bears,” says Karen Rimpler, ARNP, medical director for the CMC Emergency Room — who had a Teddy bear, herself, while growing up. “A teddy bear is almost like a little person,” she says. “We use them as partners in travel for kids who are on an adventure through the emergency room and they seem to make the journey a little less scary.”

Sometimes, when a child needs to be given an IV, Rimpler says, the nurse will first establish the line on a Teddy bear to show a child that it doesn’t hurt. The Teddy bear will stay with the child through the entire hospital visit and go home with him or her to offer comfort on another day.

“We very much appreciate Mrs. Gross doing this,” says Rimpler. “It means a lot to us and really adds to our ability to help care for the children of our community. It’s a really important thing that she does.”

Gross plans to continue making Teddy bears for CMC as long as she’s able. Each one, she hopes, will deliver a simple message to a child: “I just want them to know that someone cares.”

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