A mom in the nation’s heartland is begging for help in locating her late son’s stuffed animal after it was lost on a recent family vacation.
Liz Atkinson is an emergency room nurse from Burlington, Iowa, and the mother of six-year-old son Sebastyan and late son Gabryel.
Gabryel was born at just 31 weeks with a chromosomal anomaly that caused a series of health complications throughout the seven years of his young life.
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“He had a skull reconstruction, a palate surgery, the right middle lobe of his lung removed, multiple airway surgeries … things [from]head to toe,” Atkinson told Fox News Digital about Gabryel’s health battle.
On April 9, 2022, Gabryel passed away after years of health complications related to the chromosomal anomaly, his mother shared.
When Gabryel was born, he was placed in the hospital’s NICU — and Atkinson was given a baby shower at the hospital, she said.
“Bruce the elephant has had multiple baths, had the vibrating mechanism replaced and has been with the Atkinson family through it all.”
One of the shower attendees gave the child a colorful stuffed elephant toy that would vibrate and play music — something that instantly relaxed him, said his mom.
Gabryel was very attached to the stuffed animal, Atkinson also said — and named it Bruce.
“From there on and ever since, it’s been in bed with Gabryel every night,” she said.
Throughout the years, Bruce the elephant has had multiple baths.
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It’s had its vibrating mechanism replaced and has been with the Atkinson family through it all, said Atkinson.
So when the family decided to take a trip to Florida — a trip they were unable to take while Gabryel was alive — there was no question that Bruce the stuffed animal would come along.
Bruce went on every trip the family took. The plan was to bring it along for comfort as they continue to mourn the loss of Gabryel.
At the last minute, Atkinson decided to put some of Gabryel’s ashes in the back of the stuffed animal.
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“The intention of bringing Bruce wasn’t necessarily to bring him everywhere with us,” she said.
“It was just the fact that he was going to be coming along on the trip and staying in the hotel rooms,” she added.
During the trip, the family had planned to go parasailing, and son Sebastyan asked if Bruce could come along.
Things went awry when the family discovered that the beloved toy had gone missing.
Security footage reviewed since that day showed that Bruce did make it onto the boat on April 24 — and then back to the car after the parasailing activity, Atkinson said.
“Before I leave a place, even just sitting, I look around me to make sure nothing’s missing.”
After that, the family headed to Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, where Atkinson believes Bruce was lost.
Atkinson realized on their way to Disney’s Art of Animation resort on April 25 that Bruce was not with them — panicking and replaying moments back from the previous couple of days, she continued.
The family returned home to Iowa on May 1 — without Bruce.
The Atkinson family has been in contact with the various hotels they stayed in during their trip, as well as Disney parks, a Lego store they visited, the parking garage where they parked and other locations to see if anyone had seen Bruce the elephant.
So far, no luck.
Atkinson, who has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), said she is struggling to wrap her mind around losing Bruce, as she is known for being a very organized person.
“Before I leave a place, even just sitting, I look around me to make sure nothing’s missing,” she said.
The worried mom said she’s thought about the notion of someone throwing the toy away or even taking it in order to sell it online — but she doesn’t really believe either of those options occurred.
“I just can’t imagine somebody doing that,” she said.
Atkinson has been spreading the word on social media.
She said that many people on these platforms have said they’ve kept an eye out for Bruce the stuffed elephant while on family vacations to Disney and the Orlando area.
Source: Fox News