64: Get to Work, Santa

64: Get to Work, Santa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Get to Work, Santa

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

~Robert Heinlein

“Hold it right there!” I froze in mid-step, pinned to the wall by a brilliant beam of light. The voice behind the flashlight echoed in the emptiness of the dimly lit stairwell.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Well you see, officer . . . ah, my wife is on the next floor and . . .”

It was Christmas Eve. Dressed in a Santa suit, I had been caught sneaking in to visit my wife Carol in the hospital’s Surgical Ward. Carol’s December 25th birthdate always made our Christmas extra special, but this year, on December 22nd, disaster had struck! Carol began complaining of severe stomach pain. We rushed to emergency where the diagnosis was acute appendicitis. The treatment was immediate emergency surgery, and the prognosis — Christmas in the hospital. We were stunned. Realizing she would have to spend her Christmas birthday in a sick bed in the hospital, away from home, just broke Carol’s heart.

During my post-surgery visit she was groggy, but able to squeeze my hand in response to my words of love and support. My stay however was brief. The ward supervisor, Nurse Krause, arrived to settle in the new patient. Visiting hours were strictly enforced and Krause was diligent in her duties. My appeal for special treatment fell on deaf ears and she dismissed me from the room. I spent the next two days dodging Krause in an attempt to extend my visits; however, she invariably managed to thwart my efforts. Even our Christmas Eve visit was terminated promptly at 9:00 p.m. But, unbeknownst to Krause, I had a backup plan! Just after midnight, dressed in a Santa suit, I snuck back into the hospital using the stairs. I had almost made it when I found myself caught in that beam of light.

“So you see, Officer, I have just got to get to her.” After considering my plea, the man delivered me to the nursing station, right back into the clutches of Nurse Krause. After eyeing me for a moment, she ordered me to stay put and then set off down the hallway. And then a Christmas miracle occurred.

She returned pushing a wheelchair, and when I recognized its smiling occupant my heart leaped with joy. Krause parked the chair and then, without saying a word, disappeared from sight again. Now was my chance! Leaning forward, I took Carol by the shoulders and…

“Okay you two, that’s enough of that. You’ve got work to do!” barked Krause as she reappeared pushing a large laundry cart filled with wrapped presents and stuffed toys. It turned out that Nurse Krause had a special mission of her own that Christmas Eve. The pediatric ward was right next door and, so that no child would miss out on their visit from Santa, their parents had left gifts with Krause for delivery. Noting my Santa outfit, Krause had decided to recruit me!

With Carol accompanying us in the wheelchair, we quietly slipped into the children’s ward, where most of the little ones were asleep. Krause selected the appropriate presents and I tiptoed from bed to bed placing the gifts inside the bed rails with their occupants. By the time we finished, we had left more than one sleepy-eyed young believer in our wake. In addition, Carol and I found our efforts had done wonders in restoring our own somewhat trampled Christmas spirit.

Back in her room I assisted Carol into bed and chose that moment to deliver a long delayed Christmas/birthday kiss. I swear Krause smiled, but just for a moment. “Okay Santa, on your way. Your work here is done.”

When I arrived on Christmas morning loaded with presents, Krause was still on duty. “Good morning Santa, I mean Mr. Forrest. She’s anxious to see you.”

When I entered Carol’s room I was pleasantly surprised to find her wearing her robe, and seated on the edge of the bed. She looked great, considering she’d had serious surgery less than forty-eight hours ago. After I took off my coat Carol told me about the doctor’s visit a half hour earlier, his order to remove the IV, and his noncommittal reply to her plea to be released. Just as we were about to begin opening the presents, Krause appeared at the door.

“Mr. Forrest, I’ll have to ask you to excuse us.”

“Aw Nurse Krause,” I moaned, “can’t it wait until…?”

“Now see here you!” she exclaimed. “Just because I felt sorry for you last night doesn’t mean you can get away with anything today. I have to change her dressing before she goes home, and I can’t do that with you here.”

“What did you say?” blurted Carol. “Did you say home?” she cried. “I’m going home today, really?”

“That’s right,” replied Krause, “as soon as we can get you out the door. When the doctor stopped by after rounds he wanted to know how you were really doing. I think your tale of woe had him pretty well convinced, but when I told him about last night, and added that if he didn’t let you out today I’d probably have to install a cot for your husband, he decided that home would be the best place for you both.

“So you, out!” she ordered. “Make yourself useful and go find a wheelchair.”

When I returned with the chair I gathered up the unopened gifts and Carol’s suitcase, while Krause got her seated in the chair. Our little entourage then made its way to the elevator. When the car arrived I held it for a moment, looked down at Carol and then we both looked to Krause.

“Merry Christmas!” we said.

“Merry Christmas to you too,” replied Krause. “And . . . ah… thank you for your help last night,” she added, with just a hint of a thin-lipped smile.

“It was you who helped us, Krause,” said Carol softly.

The doors slid shut, and we were on our way home for Christmas.

~John Forrest

Orillia, Ontario

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