Dying San Antonio mother’s heartbeat placed in teddy bears for her 3 children to hear

Methodist Hospital Stone Oak ICU nurses recorded Sandra Obregon’s heartbeat before she died from COVID-19

Members of the Obregon family and Methodist Hospital Stone Oak ICU nurses display three teddy bears given to the children of Sandra Obregon, who died of COVID-19. Sandra's heartbeat was placed in the Build-A-Bears so that the children can hear her heartbeat and feel the vibrations in these bears. Courtesy: Methodist Healthcare (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – When Sandra Obregon died on Feb. 22 of COVID-19 at Methodist Hospital Stone Oak, the intensive care unit team knew they not only lost a patient, but they lost someone who had become a dear friend.

During the 45 days Obregon was being cared for at the hospital, her care team had developed a special connection with their patient and her family.

Obregon and her husband, Mark, were admitted to the hospital on Jan. 9. Mark was admitted for shortness of breath. As her symptoms worsened, Sandra and Mark’s care teams arranged a visit for the couple before she was intubated.

Mark was discharged on Jan. 20, but due to safety precautions, Methodist Hospital Stone Oak was not allowing visitors, which meant that Mark couldn’t see his wife any longer. That’s when Sandra’s caregivers assumed the role of family until her death.

Methodist Hospital Stone Oak ICU nurses present teddy bears to Mark and Sandra Obregon’s three children: 2-year-old Isabella, 5-year-old Noah, and 14-year-old Nathan.

When Sandra died, the ICU team, stricken with grief, wanted to express their empathy and gratitude in a meaningful way. The nurses decided to donate teddy bears for the couple’s three children, 2-year-old Isabella, 5-year-old Noah, and 14-year-old Nathan.

But these were not just ordinary bears. The Build-A-Bears were intimately designed to include the sound of Sandra’s heartbeat, which was captured by an EKG prior to her death. The nurses’ hope is that when Nathan, Noah and Isabella hear their mother’s heartbeat and feel the vibrations in the bears, they will know their mother is always with them and that her nurses’ hearts are with them, too.

Stacie Miller, chief nursing officer at Methodist Hospital Stone Oak, speaks during a ceremony that included members of Mark and Sandra Obregon’s family and the ICU nurses.

“It was a difficult journey, but it’s such a privilege as a nurse to walk the journey with your family,” Stacie Miller, chief nursing officer at Methodist Hospital Stone Oak, said during a ceremony Tuesday that included members of the Obregon family and the ICU nurses.

“You are always welcome here as our family,” Danielle Jones, critical care nursing director at Methodist Hospital Stone Oak, said to the family.

The children were not the only ones surprised with a gift from the caregivers. When a request for donations went to the ICU team, the generosity exceeded the cost of the bears and the remainder of the funds were given to Mark to reiterate that they are his family, too.

Mark Obregon addresses the ICU nursing staff at Methodist Hospital Stone Oak.

Mark Obregon thanked the nursing staff for their care and love that they gave his wife.

“The way you were with her, taking care of her, it was like a family member. We appreciate all the things you’ve done for her,’ he said. “She always held you all high … which made it easier for us to sleep at night. As hard as it was to have her here, we knew she was in good hands. Continue to do what you’re doing, you’re the front line. As bad as the pandemic is … thank you for fighting for us, we appreciate it.”

Find more news like this on our Something Good page:


About the Author:

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.