A local mother is using the loss of her son to help others in the coping process.

In May 2016, Anna Ayala’s son, Theo, was born with a rare genetic disease. He spent months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at DHR Health Women’s Hospital. 

While looking at his photo, Ayala said, “He had just gotten done with his last surgery. He was just about ready to go home at that point.”

In late 2016, the Ayala’s took Theo home, where he later passed away but left an imprint of those who cared for him.

“All of us loved the baby,” said Nancy Colbath, Theo’s NICU nurse at DHR Health Women’s Hospital. “I don’t think any words can ever describe how that baby touched me.”

In May 2017, with the help of one of the doctors at DHR, Ayala created Theo’s library. A place that would serve as a bereavement room for parents and a library for their children. She reached out on social media for donations. Within a month, Ayala received 5,008 books from people in the community and even Scholastic Corporation. Parents are able to take as many books as they like. 

“In the NICU themselves, I place bins by each bed. The bins have about 7 -10 books so they are able to grab them easily,” Ayala said. 

As a mother of four, Theo and the rest of his family will always be connected. 

“It’s a library that’s always going to be open but I’m always going to be keeping it up,” Ayala said. “It’s kind of like if I had my son here, I would be spending time with him. I’m spending time in his library.”

If you have someone you would like to highlight for their acts of kindness in our ‘Hometown Heroes’ segment, email Nicole Hickl at nhickl@sbgtv.com or contact her through Facebook.