May 17, 2021

A child’s beloved stuffed toy was missing. Two Children’s Hospital nurses mounted a midnight expedition to the basement to find Stuart the pink tiger.

Searching dozens of laundry bags in quest of a patient’s pink-and-white companion

Children's Hospital nurses Paige Bergstol, RN, and Lindsey Daoust, RN, who went on a scavenger hunt at midnight to find a patient's missing stuff animal, which accidentally got swept up in dirty laundry. The pair went down the hospital basement searching through about 75 bags of laundry until they found the stuff Zebra, named Stuart, and returned him to the patient. Both work on 6th floor night shift

Intrepid nurses/stuffed toy detectives Paige Bergstol and Lindsey Daoust. Photo by Susan Urmy

You may have seen the animated movie of a larger-than-life young clownfish who goes missing at sea and on an adventure, only to later be found and enthusiastically reunited with his family — of course, with the help of some friends.

In a real-life “Finding Nemo” scenario, two Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt nurses found themselves in the middle of their own production called “Finding Stuart.”

In this version, it’s the story of an 11-year-old fluffy, pink and white, striped tiger, Stuart, who gets lost in a sea of laundry at the hospital and is later rescued by two determined nurses, Paige Bergstol and Lindsey Daoust, who work in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Unit on the sixth floor of Children’s Hospital.

Children’s Hospital patient Faith Everingham and her companion, Stuart the stuffed tiger (although some say he looks more like a zebra).

The setting begins in the hospital room of 17-year-old Faith Everingham, who is Stuart’s longtime companion. Faith and Stuart have been together since she was 6, when her grandmother gave her the stuffed tiger (though some say he kind of looks like a zebra).

Faith, who lives in White House, Tennessee, was born with spina bifida, a congenital condition in which the layer of the tissue and bone that normally covers the spinal cord fails to close during development, leaving delicate nerve exposed. She has had at least 30 operations at Children’s Hospital in her lifetime for complications related to her condition. Many of her more recent procedures involve removing painful bladder stones, common for patients with spina bifida. Most of the procedures are done on an outpatient basis.

In the basement, in the middle of the night, in the midst of dozens of bags of laundry, there was a celebration.“We screamed and danced around,” Daoust said. “We were so excited.”

Stuart has accompanied Faith to at least 20 operations and procedures at Children’s Hospital. He’s well-known to many of the nurses and doctors, who always inquire when they see Faith, “Where’s Stuart?” He’s never far behind.

But on one of Faith’s recent visits to Children’s Hospital for bladder stones, Stuart was suddenly missing. “Where’s Stuart?” asked Faith’s mom, Christi Everingham, frantically looking all over the hospital room, scouring their belongings. And it dawned on her: “I knew her sheets had been changed and the laundry bag was full. It had already been sent down the laundry chute,” said Christi. She panicked. She knew it could be a long night for Faith, who uses Stuart as a pillow — and it was already almost midnight.

That’s when Children’s Hospital nurse Paige Bergstol, RN, sprang into action. She called Vanderbilt’s laundry service, and learned that the bag had not yet been sent to the laundry. There was still time to find him. Overhearing the news, her colleague, Lindsey Daoust, RN, offered to go along to the basement. “I didn’t want Paige to go down to the basement all by herself,” Daoust explained.

Wearing their masks, the nurses added gowns and gloves to their wardrobe in preparation for the search.

“We’ll find him,” Bergstol and Daoust said to Christi Everingham.

In the basement, the duo was greeted by lots of large yellow bins filled with dozens of laundry bags. The bags seemed endless. They wondered, “Which one is Faith’s?”

One-by-one they began digging. “A lot of the laundry bags had baby clothes in them, and baby blankets, so I looked at Paige and told her if there’s baby blankets then it’s probably not hers because Faith was wearing an adult gown,” Daoust said.

“We just started emptying them and hoped that we would find Stuart,” Bergstol added.

They emptied 10 bags. Nothing.

They emptied another 10 bags, and then another 10. Still nothing.

They kept going, and about 50 bags into the search: “I dumped out one that looked like it was from our floor, and then this little pink zebra fell out,” Daoust said.

In the basement, in the middle of the night, in the midst of dozens of bags of laundry, there was a celebration.

“We screamed and danced around,” Daoust said. “We were so excited.”

Clutching the precious pink zebra, they rushed to tell the good news.

“We hurried back up to the floor and told everyone we passed, ‘We found Stuart,’” Bergstol said.

When Bergstol and Daoust returned to the floor, they found the whole staff anxiously awaiting news. The celebration with their fellow nurses had to be quiet — it was still the middle of the night.

“It was way above and beyond what I would have expected them to do. And I could not begin to show them enough appreciation for what they were willing to do. But that is typical of the nurses at Vanderbilt.”

Then, they got to return Stuart to Faith.

“Faith cried; mom cried; they were so excited to see Stuart,” Daoust said.

Christi Everingham admits she teared up a bit.

“It was an absolute relief,” she said. “It was way above and beyond what I would have expected them to do. And I could not begin to show them enough appreciation for what they were willing to do. But that is typical of the nurses at Vanderbilt.”

Now, when people ask where Stuart is, Christi and Faith have a cute story to tell about the time he went missing but found his way home.

They also weren’t about to have a repeat of Stuart’s unplanned trip.

“We kept a very close eye on him the rest of our stay,” Christi said.

For Bergstol and Daoust, this was more than a story of helping one patient. They would do that any time. It was also an affirmation of why they became nurses and chose to work at Children’s Hospital. Both started at Children’s Hospital in February 2020.

“It’s more than taking care of the patients in the general sense. It’s being able to take that one step further and make sure that they know they are loved and cared for. It was a really good feeling knowing that we were able to do that for Faith,” Bergstol said.

“This reaffirms why I’m a nurse. I was so happy for (Faith). And I feel like anyone on the floor would have done this for their patients,” said Daoust.