An Indiana family is wanting a Cincinnati Zoo to name a soon-to-be newborn sloth after their late son who died earlier this year at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Alyssa Nicholson and her husband, Alex Nicholson, from Lawrenceburg, have created a petition on change.org called “Name the baby sloth after Oliver” after their little boy, Oliver.
The condition VACTERL that Oliver was born with led to him having one hand and two fingers. VACTERL stands for vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheoesophageal fistula, renal anomalies and limb abnormalities. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that it’s a set of birth defects that often occur together in three or more body parts.
Oliver and his twin brother, Atticus, were born prematurely in October 2019 and Oliver had surgery in January to connect his esophagus and his stomach. During that difficult time in his life, his mom and dad got him a toy sloth during and discovered the stuffed animal with two toes resembled their baby boy.
“He adored that sloth stuffed animal. He would sleep with him every night. We had a giant ‘hang in there’ sloth balloon in his hospital room, all of the nurses loved it,” Alex added, “He was always so calm, and so patient; and so happy to be here.”
The routine procedure to check his esophagus led to bleeding around Oliver’s heart and he was unable to recover. “We lost him very suddenly,” Alex said. During Oliver’s funeral, loved ones who knew of Oliver’s love for his toy sloth told his family that the sloth at the Cincinnati zoo was pregnant and perhaps could be named in Oliver’s memory.
“Everyone was saying it was a sign and speculating that it would be named after Oliver. We later found out that Lightning was a two-toed sloth which sort of resembled Oliver’s one hand with only two fingers. We had his ‘hang in there’ balloon above him and buried him with a lovey sloth,” the change.org petition says.
“It just seemed like a pretty crazy coincidence. He loved his stuffed sloth. That’s where it sparked the idea,” Alex explained the inspiration behind the petition. “We said, ‘how do we continue Oliver’s legacy?’ By spreading awareness about his condition.”
“He was here for 16 months, he left us very soon and he left me with more life lessons than I could have ever taught him – it had to be so that I could help others I think that’s how we feel,” Alex added.
Although Alex and his wife have not been directly contacted by the zoo, a spokesperson for the Cincinnati Zoo said it plans to discuss names when the baby sloth is born in the coming weeks. “We are aware of the petition and Oliver’s sad and sweet story,” Michelle Curley, a spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Zoo, said in an email.