Dressed in their Christmas best, tiny patients at the UC San Diego Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) got a visit from Santa Claus Wednesday, sharing hugs – and holiday wishes – with jolly old St. Nick.
Santa Claus visited the NICU at the Hillcrest hospital to spread holiday cheer to premature babies and their families, stopping for photos and gifting each baby with a little stuffed animal.
Santa’s eyes were filled with wonder as he spent time with each infant, calling each and every baby a real-life “Christmas miracle.”
“I feel so happy [to hold these little babies]. It just makes my Christmas,” St. Nick told NBC 7.
For NICU families, the festive visit was a small break from their difficult reality – some holiday spirit amid hard times.
“It’s a valuable thing to have in the NICU – a little holiday cheer,” said Kim Fifield, mother of 5-month-old Beckett.
Fifield said Beckett was born on July 3, at just 26 weeks. At birth, he weighed less than one pound – 15.5 ounces.
“He’s our little miracle boy,” Fifield said, gazing at her precious baby. “The fact that he’s here and this big, is truly a miracle.”
She said the past few months have been tough for her family, but day after day, Beckett is growing and getting stronger.
“It’s not what you foresee when you have a child, but you get used to it, believe it or not,” she told NBC 7.
Instead of wishing for a new toy or other goodies from Santa Claus this year, the families at the NICU all had very different things on their wish lists.
“[My wish is] for his lungs to get stronger,” Fifield said.
Another mother, holding her daughter, Lily, asked Santa for a couple of miracles of her own.
“[Lily] wants to eat on her own and she wants to come home with mommy and daddy and be with her family,” the mother asked Santa.
When asked what she wanted for Christmas, the mom said she, too, wanted Lily to come home but added, with a smile, “She needs to get better first.”
Jan Hebert, NICU nurse manager at UC San Diego Medical Center said the visit from Santa marks a special time for patients and their families.
“It's the first holiday for our tiniest patients and we want to honor this important milestone for them and their families, who are often faced with long and difficult days,” Hebert explained.
The NICU facility specializes in the treatment of babies born prematurely or with health issues that require hospitalization or around-the-clock care. Some families can spend months in the NICU before they are cleared to take their babies home. For more information about the NICU at UC San Diego Medical Center, visit this website.