Santa and his entourage brought colour to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s helicopter landing pad and smiles to children and staff at the hospital Tuesday. NRGH was one of five stops on Santa’s annual Christmas helicopter tour to visit sick children. CHRIS BUSH/ The News Bulletin

Santa and his entourage brought colour to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s helicopter landing pad and smiles to children and staff at the hospital Tuesday. NRGH was one of five stops on Santa’s annual Christmas helicopter tour to visit sick children. CHRIS BUSH/ The News Bulletin

Santa’s helicopter hospital hop brightens day for sick children in Nanaimo

Santa visits by B.C. Air Ambulance to bring smiles to young patients and hospital staff at NRGH

Ask Santa if his sleigh or a B.C. Air Ambulance helicopter is a smoother ride and he’ll tell you it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Santa, his elf assistant and an air ambulance flight crew arrived at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Tuesday morning via a B.C. Air Ambulance helicopter that landed so gently he said “you couldn’t tell we were on the ground until they shut the engine off.”

Santa spread some of that magic through the hospital where he met with children in the pediatric ward, their parents, and some adult patients for his annual Christmas tour to the region’s hospitals.

Nanaimo was the second of five hospitals on the itinerary that started at Victoria General Hospital and included Surrey Memorial Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital and B.C. Children’s Hospital.

This is the 14th year Santa has flown in to visit sick children, some of whom might not be home over Christmas.

The annual event is a partnership between B.C. Emergency Health Services and Helijet International – contractor for the air ambulance service – and it benefits the air crews and paramedics who often must deal with children under traumatic circumstances, but get to see them smile when Santa arrives.

“The kids are so great when they’re sick. They’re so honest with you. There’s no game playing. They’re so brave and it’s the parents that are having the hardest time … It’s so great to come back here and see them when they’re happy and their smiles light up when they see Santa Claus,” said Kathryn Reid, paramedic who works with the infant transport team. “Santa Claus make everybody smile.”

The main mission of the fly-ins, though, is to brighten hospital stays for the children who also receive little Helijet teddy bears presented by Santa himself.

And how does the sleigh’s ride compare to the helicopter?

“It’s never wise to try to compare them,” Santa said. “The helicopter is mechanical and requires skill to fly it, but the sleigh and the reindeer are powered by magic.”



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Maddy Britz and her dad Francois got into a conversation about reindeer and other topics peculiar to the North Pole after Santa flew into Nanaimo Regional General Hospital aboard a B.C. Air Ambulance helicopter Tuesday. CHRIS BUSH/ Then News Bulletin

Maddy Britz and her dad Francois got into a conversation about reindeer and other topics peculiar to the North Pole after Santa flew into Nanaimo Regional General Hospital aboard a B.C. Air Ambulance helicopter Tuesday. CHRIS BUSH/ Then News Bulletin