Carson bears: A local family aims to support sick children

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Counts and Steven Shanks were all smiles as they entered Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. They were there to deliver Carson bears and books to children waiting for organ transplants or those who have had them.

"Kids are able to hold on to a Carson while they are going through this journey and see how their journey lines up with his."

Counts and her siblings came up with the idea for Carson when their father Stephen was in Methodist Hospital last year for a liver transplant.

"There isn't enough support and service for those going through this journey and we knew we needed it."

Carson is named for Counts' youngest brother. The bear comes with a book to help children better understand organ transplantation.

"Carson gets sick and we don't know what's wrong with him and he has to go the doctor and take several tests," explained Counts.

The book then takes children on the journey of finding an organ and having surgery. Counts said her family's went through a series of highs and lows during her father's illness.

"I was so excited because we knew what was wrong with him and then later I learned he might not get the transplant."

That's because there's a huge need for people to donate organs. The family said they are working to change that.

"Educate communities on the importance of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, and we're going to support those going through this journey."

Stephen Shanks was fortunate. He got a liver that was successfully transplanted last June at Methodist University Hospital. That's why they chose Le Bonheur as the first hospital to visit with Carson.

Counts said they plan travel to every transplant center in America handing out Carson bears and books.

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