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Santa lands at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s helipad

Santa Claus and air ambulance crew make traditional Christmas visit to six B.C. hospitals

Santa gave his reindeer a rest and flew into town in a helicopter to visit sick children at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital this morning.

The visit Tuesday, Dec. 13, marked the 18th year the Jolly Old Elf has arrived, not with a clatter of hooves, but to the whine of a turbine and the beat of rotors as part of a six-hospital tour, sponsored by Helijet and B.C. Emergency Health Services, to deliver teddy bears to children in treatment in Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Surrey and New Westminster.

Upon landing, Santa held a brief press conference outside NRGH’s emergency room and reported a comfortable flight.

“It’s so smooth; it’s so wonderful – not really [as smooth as the reindeer], but the reindeer get spooked when they hear the ambulances, so we try not to upset them, ho, ho, ho!” Santa said. “Goodness gracious. Oh, my dear. I want every child to know that if they’re in hospital over Christmas, Santa would never forget you. Ho, ho ho!”

Santa also introduced his helper delivering teddy bears, Joanna Stefani, B.C. EHS infant transport team paramedic, who said having staff and children excited to see her arrival was a nice change compared to what she normally experiences in her line of work.

“Normally I fly all over the province transporting critically ill children and babies and moms, so it’s really exciting today to bring a little less stress and bring this guy around to the six hospitals that we’re going to go to today,” Stefani said. “It’s nice to be around Santa and a little bit less stressful conditions than what I’m used to.”

Santa said when he encounters sick children on his hospital visits, they brighten up when they see him.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “We’ve got some extremely sick children and, all of a sudden, they brighten up and I don’t know, I can’t explain that reaction, but it’s like something’s been lifted off them and, all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, wow, Santa. It’s so nice. It really is.”

Jasper Perkins, 6, one of several children on Santa’s NRGH visit list, was a bit overwhelmed when Santa showed up to visit him in the pediatric care ward.

“He was a little overwhelmed. I think he was pretending to faint there for a second,” said Jasper’s father Brad. “He was tearing up a little bit too.”

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Santa arrived by air ambulance with his entourage, elf Sabrina Preziosa, with Helijet, left, and Joanna Stefani, B.C. EHS infant transport team paramedic, to visit sick children at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 13. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Jasper Perkins, 6, was slightly overwhelmed as Santa arrives for a visit, but quickly overcame that initial reaction to accept a teddy bear from jolly old St Nick. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rhyder Wilson, 12, awaiting treatment in Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s emergency room, enjoys a quick chat with Santa. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Sandra Hirota, child life specialist at NRGH pediatrics ward, can’t resist snapping a selfie with old Saint Nick. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Santa introduces Joanna Stefani, B.C. EHS infant transport team paramedic, who donned reindeer antlers to stand in for Rudolph and guide the jolly old elf through hospital children’s wards for the day. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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