Lynn Gaber has put her heart into making beautiful dresses that she hopes no one will ever wear. But as a nurse in the cardiovascular surgery ICU at Mayo Clinic, Gaber knows firsthand the need for the "angel gowns" she creates. The tiny gowns, made from donated wedding dresses, are gifted to families whose babies pass away or are baptized in the hospital.
Gaber has helped care for such babies and their families for the past 37 years. She's witnessed the unfathomable pain that accompanies the loss of a child. So when one of Gaber's colleagues, Kelsey Chesney, put out a request on Facebook looking for someone to turn her wedding dress into angel gowns, Gaber quickly volunteered to serve as seamstress. It's a way, Gaber hopes, to give a small measure of comfort, even when a cure isn't possible. "Hopefully it helps the families a little to know their babies are going to heaven in something beautiful," she says.
That same hope is what motivated Chesney to donate her wedding dress. "You wear it once and then it hangs in your closet," she says. "I realized I could do more good by giving it away and making it something special for others, too." While she shares Gaber's wish that the gowns won't be needed, experience has taught her, she tells us, that "things happen."
Katelyn Young understands that, as well. Her daughter, Jett Everly Young, was born with a congenital heart defect. Katelyn and her husband, Jordan, were told that Jett would ultimately require a heart transplant. But just months after she was born, little Jett's health deteriorated and she passed away before she could receive a new heart.
Before Jett's passing, Katelyn and Jordan were offered an angel gown for their daughter. "We decided to have her baptized and did a few other special things for her in planning for her heavenly departure," Katelyn says. "We were able to pick out a beautiful angel gown for Jett to wear, and it could not have been more fitting and perfect for our baby girl." More than a year later, the dress remains a treasured gift. "The pictures we have of Jett in the gown and being able to still hold the gown in our hands make us remember the beautiful six months we had with her," Katelyn tells us. "Our angel gown is a significant piece of our daughter's life."
Knowing that some of the gowns are made by nurses makes them even more special, she says. "The nurses at Mayo are selfless, priceless and are truly walking angels on this earth," Katelyn tells us. "No wonder they call these gifts 'angel gowns' — they are donated by them."
Mariah Fuchsel agrees. Her daughter, Hadlee, received an angel gown that she wore for her baptism, which took place in her hospital room at Mayo Clinic. Not long afterward, Hadlee received a new heart — and a new chance at life. "It's just awesome that anyone even thought of making the gowns," Mariah says. And it's just part of the reason Mariah says leaving Rochester will be bittersweet. "We've loved everyone who has taken care of Hadlee. In a way, we'll be sad to leave."
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