Thrive by IU Health

September 01, 2022

Meet ‘Miss Pickles:’ Spirit animal and mascot

Meet ‘Miss Pickles:’ Spirit animal and mascot

Why would a stuffed giraffe live in a hospital office space? Here’s the story:

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

A floor of offices occupied by doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers, might seem like an unusual place to encounter a giraffe. There are no patients in this area of IU Health Methodist Hospital. But behind-the-scenes is a story of one big spotted stuffed animal.

Affectionately known as “Miss Pickles” - she resembles a grand prize won at a carnival game. This plush toy is recognized by members of the Acute Care Surgery Team as a sort of group mascot. On any given day, team members face some of the most serious situations for patient care. Days can be long and taxing.

Throughout those long days and long nights Miss Pickles has provided a little light-hearted relief.

She came to IU Health several years ago. Her official owner is nurse practitioner, Heather Denger, who started at IU Health 15 years ago. Denger isn’t sure where the name came from but the idea of having a giraffe in the office actually has a backstory.

“When I was a kid, I was tall so I got called ‘giraffe’ a lot,” said Denger, who stands 5 feet 10 inches tall. The nickname stuck into adulthood and eventually Denger adopted the giraffe as her spirit animal.

A friend purchased Miss Pickles as a humorous gift for Denger and soon the giraffe became part of her team.

“We’ve had some fun pulling pranks on each other with Miss Pickles. Sometimes team members will go into their offices and see their desks a little messy and Miss Pickles gets blamed,” said Denger. One of the biggest pranks was when members of the ortho trauma team kidnapped Miss Pickles.

Denger received text messages from an unknown number with pictures of Miss Pickles ordering pizza at Sonny’s, one of the hospital diners, and pictures of the stuffed animal resting on the floor wearing a blood pressure cuff.

All part of the fun, team members made a “Missing Person” sign seeking help for her safe return.

“The nurse practitioners working nights even looked around the hospital for her,” said Denger.

Eventually, Miss Pickles was returned to her rightful owner - wearing casts on her legs, signed by members of the ortho team.

These days Miss Pickles also wears scrub pants, a neck brace, patriotic beads, and a headband. She also has a sign around her neck that reads: “I miss my mommy.”

A year ago when Denger changed her position and joined the lung transplant team at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Miss Pickles stayed behind.

“I didn’t really have room for her in my new office, and I knew how important she was to the team,” said Denger. “It’s a little thing but it’s really given us some light moments.” She still receives photo updates on Miss Pickles from co-workers.

In Denger’s absence, other team members, including Nurse Navigators Wendy Hoover and Katie Watson, oversee Miss Pickles’ care - that includes sprucing her up for special holidays and of course . . . protecting her from being snatched up by other team members.