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Family’s gifts to PMC patients motivated by past kindness

December 22, 2018 GMT

POCATELLO -- Five-year-old Hanna Fowler takes her favorite blanket on every car trip and sleeps with it at night.

She got her purple alpaca blanket on a very tough day in March -- as a surprise gift from a kind Portneuf Medical Center nurse who thought she needed a pick-me-up during an extended hospital stay.

Knowing first hand how small acts of kindness can make a big difference to children and families stuck in a hospital, the American Falls family recently donated several gifts for newborns, children and parents coping with extended stays at PMC.

In late November, they gave the hospital enough Barbee dolls, Onesies, stuffed animals, blankets, clothing, body washes, lotions and other toys and personal-care items to provide pleasant surprises for 50 to 70 patients.

“I don’t think anybody ever plans on going to the hospital and staying for a week,” said Shawn Fowler, the girl’s father. “Having toys to play with or a stuffed animal is huge in a little kid’s eyes. It’s nice to have little surprises.”

Hannah was born six weeks prematurely and was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, called Sotos syndrome, that has contributed to her serious respiratory problems. She spent the first several weeks of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Hannah was eventually transferred to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. The Fowlers were overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers during the time their daughter spent in out-of-state care.

“We had wonderful experiences with other people bringing in gifts to the Salt Lake NICU,” Hanna’s mother, Katie Fowler said.

Community members left heaps of gifts at a weekly lunch offered to NICU patients. Donated goodie bags were ubiquitous. Volunteers also prepared large meals for out-of-town residents staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

“It was a huge deal for us,” Katie Fowler said. “It made us feel like we were part of a community, even though we were so far from home.”

Hannah still undergoes occasional lengthy hospital stays for respiratory infections.

Shawn Fowler’s mother, Janet Lish, proposed doing a large service project this year. The family reflected on how much it meant to them to have the community’s support during hospital stays at PMC and Salt Lake City.

The Fowler children, Hannah, Emma, 13, Kinlee Sanchez, 8, and their nephew, Colby Fowler, who recently moved here from Oregon, helped to package the gifts and deliver them to the hospital. PMC has been distributing the gifts throughout December to patients in need of a pleasant surprise.

Katie Fowler said next on the family’s to-do list will be to return to Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City and cook a large meal for the guests.