Henry Mayo’s palliative bear program receives a sponsor

Marlee Lauffer, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation president; Nick E. Mitchell, vice president for Logix Federal Credit Union and Lisa Ortega, interim director for Outpatient Services and Palliative Care at Henry Mayo pictured with teddy bears capable of recording a patient's heartbeat to give to a child when facing the passing of a parent. Courtesy Photo

More than 60 children have received teddy bears that allow them to hear the heartbeat of a deceased parent or loved one, thanks to a Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital program. Now with a program sponsor, more children will have the chance to have one.

Logix Federal Credit Union, with branches in the Santa Clarita Valley, is the sponsor of the Palliative Care Bear Program, the hospital announced Monday.

“We are fortunate to have Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital provide exceptional care to Santa Clarita residents, and credit union members,” said Nick E. Mitchell, vice president for the credit union. “The palliative care bears they distribute to family members who have lost their loved ones is a testament to this commitment, and it is a privilege to sponsor such a worthy opportunity.”

To help children feel supported and comforted when faced with the passing of a loved one, the teddy bear records a terminally ill patient’s heartbeat and is then given to the child as a keepsake.

“The response we get from the families whose children receive a bear has been very positive,” said Lisa Ortega, RN, interim director of outpatient services and Palliative Care at Henry Mayo.  “When a loved one enters the final stages of life, we are able to record the heartbeat of the patient, place the recording in the bear and present the bear as a gift to the child.”

The program began in 2017, when palliative care team members at Henry Mayo purchased a teddy bear, using their own money, capable of recording sound. Grant funding allowed for additional plush toys to be purchased.

“The recordable bears make a profound impact on family members,” the hospital said. Among them was the case of a patient who was non-responsive and on life support. The patient’s son, an only child, was faced with the responsibility of making the health care decisions for his mother.

The son requested that staff postpone placing his mother on comfort care until after his upcoming graduation a few days later.

A teddy bear was prepared for him thanks to a nurse’s assistant.

When the recording of the patient’s heartbeat was finished, the bear was placed in between her arms. When the son returned to his mother’s room, he went straight to the bear, hugged it and cried. The bear provided comfort to the young man during a very difficult time.

Marlee Lauffer, president of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation, said, “We strive to exceed the expectations of those we serve, every day, every time. Support from corporate partners like Logix helps us achieve that goal.”

Joelle Beigel, a spokeswoman with the hospital, said the goal is to make the program an ongoing one.

Henry Mayo also holds a year-round teddy bear drive in which stuffed animals are distributed to the thousands of children treated at the hospital annually.

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