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Standing in the gap

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‘Vaughnie Bears’ help hurting families realize they aren’t alone

By Greg Summers

Most days, a labor and delivery nurse goes home smiling.

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“We get to share in the happiest days of people’s lives,” said Cathy Montgomery, who is the nurse manager for labor and delivery and newborn nursery at Springs Memorial Hospital.

But there is a flip side to that happiness coin, when things go wrong and pure joy turns to unspeakable sorrow.

 Those are the days when infants are stillborn or die.

“I always say we have the best job in the world or the worst,” Montgomery said.

Rita Greene Parker identifies with those sentiments, which is why she has stepped into the gap to help.

On Jan. 2, Parker and her sons, Matthew Greene and Adam Greene, presented 40 handmade “Vaughnie Bears” to SMH in memory of her grandson, Vaughn Edward Noble Greene.

“I know the pain of coming home empty-handed because of what happened to my family,” Parker said. 

The tragedy of Vaughnie, unfolded Jan. 2. 2011, when Matthew Greene and his wife, Julieanna, went to Cape Fear Valley Hospital in Fayetteville, N.C., expecting a normal birth. A U.S. Army serviceman, Matthew is stationed at Fort Bragg.

However, that day the couple learned Vaughnie died before Julieanna went into labor.

Parker was so affected by her son and daughter-in-law’s grief that she had to do something for other parents who suffer the same kind of emotional pain. 

“It was so hard watching those kids come home with no baby,” a tearful Parker said. “You feel so helpless. I don’t think anyone really understands this kind of heartbreak unless they’ve been there.” 

To help others get through their pain and loss, Parker used her sewing skills to make the soft fabric teddy bears in her first grandson’s honor. That way, she said a hurting mom will have something to hold onto when she leaves the hospital. Each Vaughnie Bear includes a personal message from Parker so parents know they aren’t alone. 

“I learned at an early age the best way to kill time is to work it to death,” the talented seamstress said. “God blessed me with a talent and my boys so I’m giving it back. I see it as paying it forward.”

In 2011, Parker’s family presented 40 of the bears to Cape Fear Valley Hospital. This year, they chose SMH, where Matthew and Adam were born.  

“I can’t have a party, but I can sew,” Parker said. “I can do something for somebody else. If the Lord puts in my heart to do it again, that’s what I’ll do. It’s my way to remember Vaughnie.”     

Montgomery said gestures like heartfelt Parker’s are few and far between. Parker, she said, saw a need that few even realize.

“What she has done has really touched my heart,” Montgomery said.  “We’ve seen church groups step up with something like this as a mission project, but we’ve never seen anyone give of themselves to this level. It sure does mean a lot.”