What would you do if you woke in the middle of the night and couldn’t move? Karen Fitch found herself in this scary situation — but instead of giving up, her and her husband, Nik, opted to give back to others. Although their story is heartbreaking, they were able to turn their tragedy into something much bigger than themselves.
Due to a neurological impairment, Karen woke up on Nov. 9, 2019, and could not move — paralyzed from the neck down. She sought medical attention, yet the situation worsened when a lung complication arose. Karen required a ventilator and spent six months in the hospital. When the coronavirus pandemic began to worsen in 2020, she was sent home to minimize her risk of contracting the disease.
Having only been married two years at the time, Karen and Nik were glad to be back on the farm, where they were surrounded with familiar sights and sounds that they loved. After settling in at their home in Keosauqua, Iowa, Karen mustered the kind of strength she struggled to find inside the six hospitals (across three states) during her recovery. While her husband and family dedicated time to nursing Karen and helping her with her therapy, they also dreamed of the future and planned for ways to help others.
“The conversations kept coming back to how can we give others a piece of what brings us peace? How can we share our story in a way that both encourages and educates? How can we make a difference?” said Nik, who is 27 years old.
The answer could only come from the heart — and a big piece of Karen’s heart is her cows! Thus, the Cuddle Cow Company was born.
The Cuddle Cow Company sells blankets with photos of the very cows that Karen has worked so hard to come home to. Part of the proceeds will go toward spinal cord research and to helping raise awareness for those with spinal cord injuries.
With the success of the blankets, the company is also introducing products such as bath mats and bibs. Each product features a member of the Fitches’ herd or their farm.
Why cows? Karen responds, “Cows bring a smile. Cows make me happy! My fondest memories revolve around cows — starting with bottle feeding calves with my grandpa or my dad and continuing when my husband proposed and I found the ring box in a bucket of feed back at our corral!”
Karen further explains her passion for this project.
“When I was in the hospital so many people had no idea what farm life was like or even what a cow was. Some people didn’t know there were any cows except dairy cows. One nurse thought the picture I had in my room was of a buffalo! I realized these people had missed out on experiencing a calf sucking on their finger or watching the momma cows come running when my nieces and nephews call them to the feed bunk. By sharing our cows with the world, we can give people a glimpse of what it’s like to be close to some pretty amazing creatures!”
The Cuddle Cow Company allows Karen and Nik to make a difference.
“Lots of people ask what they could do to help. This is something tangible that people can do. They can purchase an item and help fund research that is striving to finding ways to improve the lives of others like me,” Karen explains.
Nik adds, “We wanted to help the spinal cord injury community, yet cord injuries are expensive, and our resources were limited. By starting a give-back company where a portion of the proceeds are donated to spinal cord injury research, we can help others.”