Santa Claus took a break from the chaos that is sure to be the North Pole at this time of year to spend a day visiting children in hospitals across the province.
His first stop was Victoria General Hospital in View Royal last Thursday morning.
But Santa opted to leave his regular form of transportation at home, allowing the reindeer to properly rest up before the big day. Instead he touched down to the cheers of bystanders in a HeliJet air ambulance.
Accompanied by his trusty elf, Gizelle Manese, HeliJet president and CEO Danny Sitnam, and B.C. Emergency Health Services Infant Transportation Team paramedic Graem Luis, he wasted no time before heading up to the pediatric ward of the hospital.
“A lot of times there’s not a lot of positive things you can have around the hospital during the holidays,” said pediatric nurse Jessica Fewer.
“Having Santa is one of those things that makes a huge difference.”
She added that while the nurses do the best they can to make the ward as fun as possible for their little patients, it’s not always a fun place to be.
“A lot of them are struggling with a lot of different challenges,” she said.
Luis, who is usually flying in the air ambulance for a very different reason, was grateful for the opportunity to help spread some holiday cheer.
“For many kids and their families this holiday will be marked by the hospital,” he said.
“This is a nice opportunity for everyone to forget the real serious reasons we’re in the hospital.”
One of the first children Santa met in the VGH pediatric ward was Chief Owusu-Nyamekye.
He had just celebrated his fourth birthday on Dec. 14, in the hospital, but hoped to be released later in the day.
He suffers from severe asthma and an underlying condition of sickle cell anemia, which his mom said lands him in the hospital roughly six to eight times a year, usually for four or five days each time.
The soft-spoken little boy lit up when he saw Santa coming. When the jolly old man asked him what he’d like for Christmas, his answer was barely audible over the hospital mask he was wearing. But Santa heard him.
It just so happened, that Santa had brought teddy bears for the children he visited – just what the little boy had asked for.