Regan Coleman does a lot to keep alive the memory of her stillborn son, Garrett.
Every year on Garrett’s birthday, Coleman and her Greenville family give back by helping a baby or nursery in need. A shadow box filled with items Garrett touched will be added to their home later this year.
Doing things for Garrett helps Regan cope with their loss. But soon the family will lose one of the first symbols that honored him.
The footprint wall in the labor and delivery unit at Anderson Hospital in Maryville will be painted over next year as the hospital continues renovations.
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That means the hundreds of tiny footprints and memorial stamps for babies will be covered up. The 19-year tradition at the Maryville hospital celebrated the lives of babies by adding footprints to the wall.
Blue for boys. Pink for girls.
Stillborn babies or newborns who died at the hospital receive an angel stamp.
“I looked at it as a memorial to my son,” Coleman said.
The hospital has announced plans to take photos of the wall. Those photos will be available for the public to view online, but many mothers who gave birth at Anderson don’t want the wall to go away.
Janet Scheller, of Hamel, is one of them. Two of her daughters, Olivia and Elizabeth, were born at the Maryville hospital. Her middle child, Allison, died 24 hours after she was born at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
“The wall to me is a tribute of all of the lives that have been born there and it really sets Anderson apart from any other hospital around here,” Scheller said. “Just to be able to go in and see the footprints of all of the babies that have been born there, it’s such a special thing.”
Scheller also understands why mothers who went home with their babies and those who experienced loss at the hospital hate to see the wall go.
Scheller, founder of Allison’s Angels Gowns, a nonprofit that makes gowns for babies who died soon after birth, has visited Anderson Hospital to help mothers cope with their loss.
It’s tragic almost to wash away legacy. I don’t know a parent who has delivered at Anderson that doesn’t feel the same way.
Janet Scheller, founder of Allison’s Angels Gowns
She’s also mourned with other mothers who experienced loss after leaving Anderson Hospital with their baby.
“I have a friend whose daughter died at four months old, but that baby’s prints are still on the wall,” Scheller said. “And that’s like a memory to her. ... You know this baby was there. And for her to be able to touch that wall and touch those footprints. That’s something tangible to her to remind her of her daughter’s life.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Anderson reminded families of its Angel of Hope monument, a statue that “gives all parents — and anyone facing grief — a place of comfort and solace.”
The hospital stopped adding footprints and stamps to the wall in January when renovations began.
Word spread about the wall going away in early July, even though some families, including Coleman’s, knew that it wouldn’t be around much longer.
“Yes, the famous footprint wall will be covered, but what will remain will be the renowned care we have always provided,” the hospital wrote on its website. “Our outstanding physicians, nurses and support staff will always be here for our mothers, babies, and families.”
The hospital plans to put the footprints and stamps online in early 2018. In the meantime, Scheller hopes the hospital can come up with an alternative that would save the wall.
“It’s tragic almost to wash away legacy,” Scheller said. “I don’t know a parent who has delivered at Anderson that doesn’t feel the same way.”