'It brings a tear to our eye': Winnipeg surgeon sews up stuffed animal for patient with special needs

A surgeon at Winnipeg's Concordia hospital performed some emergency surgery this week. In the process, he gave new life to a stuffed animal — and helped brighten a long hospital stay for a patient with special needs, says the man's mother.

Family grateful after Concordia staff perform surgery on companion for man during long hospital stay

Staff at Winnipeg's Concordia hospital worked to sew up Dean Heber's stuffed companion this week. (Michelle Heber)

A surgeon at Winnipeg's Concordia hospital performed some emergency surgery this week, giving new life to a stuffed animal — and helping brighten a long hospital stay for a patient with special needs, says the man's mother.

"It brings a tear to our eye," said Michelle Heber. Her son Dean, 23, has developmental delays, epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and he has battled recurring pneumonia for years.

That means long hospital stays for Dean and for the past few months, he has called Concordia's intensive care unit home.

The Hebers typically go to Health Sciences Centre when their son is sick but this time around they were transferred to Concordia.

"The staff there have fallen in love with my son," says Heber.

Dean Heber at Winnipeg's Concordia Hospital with his stuffed companion. A surgeon worked to sew up the stuffed animal for Dean, who has special needs and spends months at a time in hospital. (Michelle Heber)
Each time Heber and her husband are forced to take their son into the hospital, they make a quick pit stop and pick him up a brand new stuffed animal. The furry friend provides a companion for Dean and sits on the end of his bed.

On Thursday, one of the surgeons working with Dean noticed that his stuffed animal had a number of holes and fluff was starting to come out. That's when hospital staff jumped into action and put on a show for Dean to save his animal.

"They sewed him up right on the bed," says Heber. "It looks like they actually used sterile gloves and all the right equipment."

Heber says the small act of kindness, sewing up his stuffed animal, meant the world to her family, and the team effort from several nurses and doctors brought a smile to her son's face.

"It's nice to see something happy happening in the midst of all these closure talks and what not. It just brought so much joy to everybody."

'I think he's very happy'

Heber says she couldn't believe the lengths that staff went to for one patient's stuffed animal.

"It's not something that would typically happen in an ICU. After two months, you really get to know these people and it means a lot," said Heber.

While Heber isn't sure how much of the situation her son was able to understand, she knows he would have loved all of the activity around him and that his favourite health-care aid was part of it.

"My son doesn't speak. I can't really ask him but I think he's very happy someone was looking after his stuffed animals for him," said Heber.

About the Author

Courtney Rutherford

Reporter

Courtney Rutherford is a journalist with CBC Manitoba.