A terminally-ill 5 year-old boy’s final wish was granted when Santa Claus came to visit him in his hospital bed.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen plays Santa Claus for roughly 80 gigs a year, but one was very different than the rest.
Schmitt-Matzen, a mechanical engineer and co-owner of Packaging Seals & Engineering, had just gotten home from work when he received a call from a nurse at a local hospital that Schmitt-Matzen normally visits to spread Christmas cheer.
The nurse told him that there was a very sick boy who wanted to see Santa Claus and to come as soon as possible.
He said that he would change into his Santa suit right away and head on over, but she told him that the boy had very little time left.
“Your Santa suspenders are good enough,” Schmitt-Matzen recalled the nurse telling him, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
He arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later and the boys mother handed him a Paw Patrol toy to give to her son.
“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,'” Schmitt-Matzen said.
“When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep. I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!'” he told the paper.
“I am?” the boy responded.
Schmitt-Matzen then assured him that he was and handed the boy his gift.
“He was so weak he could barely open the wrapping paper. When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down,” he said.
“They say I’m gonna die,” he told Schmitt-Matzen. “How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
Schimtt-Matzen then asked him to do him a favor.
“When you get there, you tell them you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in,” he told the boy.
“He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’” Schimtt-Matzen told the paper.
“I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.” he said.
Everyone outside the room then realized what had just happened and the mother came into the room screaming.
“I handed her son back and left as fast as I could,” he said.
“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,” he told the paper. “I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don’t know how they can take it.”
“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen said. “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive. My wife and I were scheduled to visit our grandchildren in Nashville the next day, but I told her to go by herself. I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time.”