A mother from Iowa has issued multiple pleas for help in finding her late son’s beloved stuffed toy that contains his ashes.
Emergency room nurse Liz Atkinson and husband Ande Atkinson’s first child Gabryel was born in April 2014, at 31 weeks, with a rare chromosomal abnormality that caused several health complications throughout his short, seven-year life.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Ms Atkinson said Gabryel was gifted a stuffed, teal blue elephant – with a heart on its belly – named “Bruce” at her baby shower in the hospital’s NICU, where her son was placed after his premature birth.
“From there on and ever since, it’s been in bed with Gabryel every night,” she continued.
“Bruce” accompanied Gabryel on all his hospital visits and remained by his side when he underwent over 50 surgeries and procedures. The blue elephant toy would vibrate and play music, instantly soothing Gabryel, his mother told the news outlet.
Gabryel died last April, aged seven. This year, on what would have been his ninth birthday, the Atkinsons decided to take their younger son Sebastyan to Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida. “Bruce” also went with them, and Atkinson told The Washington Post she placed a small bag of Gabryel’s ashes in the toy’s back pounch.
During the course of their trip, “Bruce” was lost.
Since then, Ms Atkinson has spoken to several news outlets and shared social media posts, appealing to the public to help locate the toy and Gabryel’s ashes.
In a Facebook post dated 6 May, Ms Atkinson, who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, wrote: “The trip was a bit hectic with three different cities and hotels and grief brain kicked in at some point with all of the emotions, making me really struggle with simple memory tasks.”
She believes “Bruce” went missing after a parasailing trip in Cocoa Beach on 24 April; she told Fox News that security footage showed the stuffed animal was still with them in the car that day.
“He would have made it to Disney Springs with us,” Ms Atkinson updated her Facebook post, adding that “Bruce” might be lost in or around The Palazzo in Kissimme or the Art of Animation hotel, which was their final stop.
Ms Atkinson has reached out to the various hotels they stayed at and checked the family’s suitcases to make sure he wasn’t lost in the luggage but has had no luck yet.