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Austin Reddit Helps a Hospitalized 10-Year-Old Have a Happy Halloween

An Austin mother sent out a call for help Monday night – although she was already at the hospital with her son.

Laura Wilson-Swanson had taken her 10-year-old Gabe into Dell Children’s Hospital earlier in the week. Laura says he’s affected by an autoimmune disease called PANDAS that can lead to seizure-like episodes.

After being hospitalized Laura’s son stabilized, but the episode posed another problem. With Halloween just a few days away, the hospitalization had taken all the time required to build Gabe’s ambitious costume – a paper mache replica of the helmet worn by superstar DJ deadmau5.

So with a tight deadline, Wilson-Swanson did what any mother would do: she reached out on social website Reddit to the Austin community for help.

Credit Mario Ruiz/EPA /Landov
Canadian DJ Joel Thomas Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, performing at the 2013 Lollapalooza festival in Santiago, Chile.

The Austin Subreddit responded: Five cash donations for mask supplies came in. Offers to track down a mask for rent poured in. And a Dell Children’s nurse – who happened to be a Redditor – brought in a hair dryer from home to dry the mask the family worked on in the hospital room.

Ultimately, another Redditor met Wilson-Swanson at the ER entrance on Tuesday night with an old deadmau5 mask for her to use. “The head on it is … collapsing, but the ears and mouth are in good shape,” she says in an email to KUT.

The family was discharged yesterday, and with the donations they received they purchased supplies to complete their costume. You can see their work in progress above.

“The nurses here at [the 4 South ward] at Dell's have been amazing,” Wilson-Swanson says. “I have never seen such a sweet, awesome group of caregivers.”

“Also, the response from /r/Austin has been overwhelming,” she continues. “My original post was just asking if I could borrow/buy [a helmet] … It just … it warms your heart. Gabe is so excited that Internet people are helping him.”

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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