High-flying visitor surprises hospitalized children

December 07, 2022
Helicopter comes in for a landing with Santa waving from the front seat.
Santa waves as he comes in for a landing. Photos by Sarah Pack

He came with the help of four big blades powering a Meducare helicopter instead of eight tiny reindeer pulling a sleigh, but Santa’s unusual arrival at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital led to a visit that helped kids enjoy what for many is an important part of childhood.

“It’s an opportunity for normalcy,” said Betsy McMillan, manager of the hospital’s Child Life program. The Child Life team works to make children’s time in the hospital as stress-free as possible through choices, play and socialization.

Little boy with missing front teeth smiles as he pulls down a face mask to talk to Santa. 
Kirk Wilcox, 6, tells Santa what he's hoping for this Christmas.

“Kids need that opportunity to visit with Santa and tell them their wishes just like everyone else.”

They got that chance in the atrium of the hospital, a place where kids and families can play, and sometimes, meet special visitors. Santa sat in a bright corner of the colorful room and welcomed children to his lap.

Six-year-old patient Kirk Wilcox was thrilled to see him. “I want an electric scooter,” the boy told Santa.

“An electric scooter,” Santa answered. “What else?”

“And a keyboard,” Kirk said.

“OK. Hope you have a merry Christmas. Anything else?”

Kirk shook his head and said goodbye.

Santa holds a yawning baby. 
Nolan Harkless yawns in Santa's lap.

Three-month-old Hudson Fulton slept quietly during his visit with Santa. The Andrews boy was born prematurely and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. He was back for an operation the day of the Santa visit.

Another young patient, Nolan Harkless, got his turn with Santa with his mother’s help. Santa took his responsibility for all of the children seriously. “I’m holding them like glass,” he said of the sometimes-fragile little ones. “Santa’s here for everybody and every child.”

Some of those children will stay in the hospital for further care. Others, such as Kirk, were headed home well before the holidays. “Hopefully today,” his mother, Julia Wilcox, said. “He’s going to miss this room.”

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