A veteran Santa Claus who rushed to a hospital after receiving an emergency call wound up holding a terminally ill youngster in his arms as the boy died.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen, 60, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he had just arrived home from work when the phone rang.
“It was a nurse I know who works at the hospital. She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus,” he told the paper. “I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’ She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’ ”
Schmitt-Matzen made it to the hospital in 15 minutes. The boy’s mother gave him a gift to present to the boy.
“I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job,’” the surrogate Santa told the paper.
Santa then had some one-on-one time with the youngster.
He later recounted his conversation with the boy, which the paper published. You can read the heart-wrenching details by clicking here. Schmitt-Matzen told the boy he was Santa’s Number One elf, and the boy died while giving Santa a hug.
Schmitt-Matzen later told the paper: “I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I’ve seen my share of (stuff). But I ran by the nurses’ station bawling my head off. I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don’t know how they can take it.’”