Hospital Employee and 4-Year-Old Patient Are Best Friends

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Gregory Watson and Cooper Baltzell are the best of friends who love to share their favorite snack together — popcorn.

This friendship was born while 4-year-old Cooper was a patient at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

At birth, Cooper was diagnosed with Hirschsprung's disease, a congenital condition that affects the digestive system.

“In the four years he's been alive, he’s been hospitalized 25 times,” Cooper’s mother, Ashley, told “He's had a lot of surgeries and has been hospitalized just for different reasons associated with the disease, so he's a frequent flyer here."

Watson works as an environmental service aide at the hospital.

"I was cleaning a room and he goes around in this wagon passing out candy, and he goes, ‘Sir, you want a piece of candy?’ And my sugar was kinda low anyway. And I go, 'Ugh, God. Right on time,’" Watson told

That was the moment that sparked their friendship.

In the nine years he has worked at the hospital, Watson said he'd never bonded with a patient like this.

"I think it brings his spirit up, you know? It really does. It's just — I mean it's just what humans are supposed to do," he said.

“For kids like Cooper, he’s very social he likes chatting with people. When we're here, he likes to be out of his room, he likes to be out and about.  And Gregory is also a chatty guy, so it kind of works perfectly. But for Cooper, it makes him feel better and Gregory is definitely still his favorite person here," Ashley stated.

So much, Cooper even requested a tiny cleaning kit that looks just like his friend's.

Cooper has since been discharged and only sees Gregory when he returns to the hospital for physical therapy.

"We talked about coming here to see Gregory and he was like, ‘Let’s go, we need to go.’ And he was not happy that I said no, we need to get ready and stuff. But he wanted to go immediately."

If Ashley has her way, the pair’s visits will become more frequent.

"I said he can take Cooper for a weekend, I think — and I don't mind that. Somebody was asking, ‘Is this like a grandchild for you or something?’ And I said 'OK, well then you need to do your share. Right?'"

Perhaps forming a new dynamic duo — Super Cooper and Grandpa Gregory.


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