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Nurses help toddler with leukemia find his lost stuffed owl

Photos of Mason’s reunion with “O the owl” will melt your heart.
When Mason was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2013, he received a stuffed owl that he named O. When he accidentally left O at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital in June 2014, his nurses went on a mission to find the lost owl.

When 2-year-old Mason got sick last October, his doctors thought he had croup. But his cough wouldn't go away. Then one afternoon at day care, he woke up shaking uncontrollably.

“We rushed him to the doctor, and his labs showed that his hemoglobin was very low,” said Mason’s mom, Nikki Kleman. “They said we needed to go immediately to University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.”

Once they arrived, Mason was admitted for a series of tests to determine the cause of his symptoms, including blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy.

“The Child-Family Life Services team came in to help us make him feel more comfortable,” Kleman remembered. “When they asked him what his favorite animal is, he said an owl.”

Armed with that information, Mason’s child life specialist returned with a stuffed owl that Mason quickly named O. She used the owl to help Mason understand his tests and feel more at ease.

“When Mason got an IV, O got an IV,” said Kleman. “When Mason got bandages, O got the same bandages. They were inseparable.”

After a bone marrow biopsy, Mason’s care team discovered the cause of his symptoms. They diagnosed him with B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia—a type of blood cancer that starts in the white blood cells in the bone marrow. Mason would need to begin a long-term course of chemotherapy treatment.

In the months of treatment that followed, O remained by Mason’s side, bringing him comfort and helping him understand his treatments. 

That is, until Mason accidentally left O behind during a recent hospitalization in June. 

“We didn’t realize he was lost until Mason asked for him at bedtime,” Kleman said. “We tried giving him another owl, but it wasn’t the same. He wanted O.”

After a week of trying to locate O, Kleman posted a plea on the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital Facebook page. Nurses at the hospital launched a search and rescue operation for the lost owl. The search parties swept through the hospital unit and quickly found O. Earlier this month, the steadfast owl and his equally tough owner met again during an emotional reunion.

“Right away, Mason started checking out O to make sure he had all the right bandages and a port—just like him,” Kleman said. “Then he held him in his arms and snuggled him. With everything that Mason has been through, I can’t thank the nurses enough for helping us get O back. It means so much to us.”

"O," said Mason when he was reunited with his lost owl. "With everything that Mason has been through, I can't thank the nurses enough for helping us get O back," Mason's mom, Nikki Kleman, said.