Melissa and Chris Anderson have been through a lot. The couple lost their son, Connor, two and a half hours after he was born. A few years later, the Andersons welcomed the birth of their second child, their daughter Ainsley. Ainsley was sick, the Anderson’s didn’t know what it was. They spent 45 days of Ainsley’s first 6 months in the NICU. At 6 months Ainsley was diagnosed with D-Bifunctional protein deficiency, a disorder that causes deterioration of the nervous system beginning in infancy. This disorder, which is estimated to affect one in 100,000, had now been identified as what was ailing their daughter and what had ended the life of Connor hours after birth. The Anderson’s are happy to share that Ainsley, now eight-years-old, has defied the odds despite her life-limiting disorder. But Ainsley often has to make trips to the PICU mainly due to respiratory issues as she does not have the ability cough. Ainsley is an inspiration to her four-year-old brother Wyatt and her entire family. Ainsley still needs critical care and is often admitted back into the PICU so the Anderson family is no stranger on the unit. Chris Anderson reflected, “The PICU staff and families all kind of bond together;” adding, “You have to rely on one another.”
It is this sense of family that the Andersons wanted to encourage and facilitate. The Anderson’s fundraised and provided a dinner for all the families who would be spending the holidays in the PICU as their children received care. They did two PICU Christmas Dinners but then tragedy struck the Anderson family again and the Anderson’s were not able to continue this gesture. Their focus shifted to Chris’s father, Denny, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Denny passed away this year and to honor his memory, the Andersons wanted to use something he was known for to bring the holiday joy back to the PICU. Around Muscatine, Denny Anderson was known as “The Cookie Man,” which referred to his signature chocolate chip cookies. Denny had shared his recipe with no one; it was his and only his, becoming a great passion for him. When he was given a terminal diagnosis, Denny passed the recipe on to his daughter-in-law, Melissa and to his granddaughter Ainsley, to keep the recipe going. Dennis Anderson’s Made in Muscatine cookies (D.A.M.M) have now become Melissa Anderson’s Made in Muscatine cookies. You can now buy M.A.M.M cookies with 100% of the proceeds going to fund the PICU Christmas meal and other PICU annual programs.
The Andersons plan to hire Muscatine restaurants to cater the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital dinner with funds raised through cookie sales. Francesca’s will cater the meal again this year for the staff working as well as the families with critically ill children that forced them to spend Christmas in the PICU. They would like to continue the tradition of including local restaurants in their effort. If you would like to be part of this initiative the Andersons have begun, you can buy cookies at www.mammcookies.com, starting at $15.00/dozen. The Andersons will even ship nationwide if you would like to send them as a gift.
Chris Anderson wanted to also make it known that last year children from Muscatine county visited University of Iowa Children’s hospital 2,759 times, an average of over 8 visits per day. Muscatine County is the third largest utilizer of the facility by volume. That is one of the reasons it is a facility that they will continue to support, because it, “supports so many of our friends and neighbors the same way they supported us.”