‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the fifth floor of the hospital was quiet. Not a creature was stirring, not even a registered nurse.
The pediatric oncology wing is not always as quiet as it is right now. After all, this is where the miniature party animals of the medical world reside. This department is typically a noisy, active, bustling place.
Usually, there are loud cartoons blaring from laptops, or the occasional video game blasting from an open door at a volume loud enough to shatter industrial porcelain.
This holiday season, however, there hasn’t been much noise on the fifth floor.
Recently, the hospital tightened its visitor policies in hopes of reducing the spread of the virus. Family members, except for Mom and Dad, are asked not to visit. Thus, kids are isolated. And this place has been painfully tranquil without visitors.
But tonight as you read these words, there are actually visitors on the fifth floor.
Special visitors. These visitors have traveled thousands of miles from the uppermost parts of the northern hemisphere. The visitors wear long stocking caps, candy-striped leggings, and pointy plastic ears purchased directly from Party City.
“We’re not nurses,” says one elf named Sharon. “We’re legit elves.”
“She’s right,” says another elf who bears a striking resemblance to a sixty-year-old LPN named Wanda. “I’m from the North Pole.”
The elves push a large laundry cart through the hallway. The cart is loaded with an Everest of packages wrapped in bright paper and ribbons.
These elves have been gathering presents all month from patients’ families who were unable to visit. Sometimes elves drove across town on their off-days to collect gifts from patients’ loved ones.
“We had to get creative,” remarked one elf. “It took a lot of work, but we don’t mind, we’re Santa’s frontlines.”
The first room the elves enter tonight belongs to a nine-year-old girl. The girl is gently snoring. The girl’s mother is lying beside her daughter in bed, half asleep.
The elves quietly place gifts upon the patient’s bed. The packages are from the girl’s father, her older sister, her aunts and uncles. People who wish they could visit.
The girl’s mother sees the elves and begins to sob. A few of the elves begin to cry, too.
“Elves are very emotional,” one elf explains.
The elves visit the next room. In this room abides a five-year-old boy who is widely regarded as the comedian of the fifth-floor. But he hasn’t felt well lately. His cancer is spreading, and his spirits have fallen into the ditch.
His mother is sitting beside his bed, watching him sleep. Here on the fifth floor a lot of parents watch their children sleep.
Santa’s helpers place gifts at the foot of the bed. Most of the presents have come from the kid’s hometown. Other gifts are from the boy’s church, from his kindergarten class, or from his relatives. The mother begins to weep.
“What is all this?” says Mom.
“This is Christmas,” says an elf, straightening her plasticized ears.
The next room the elves visit belongs to a girl who misses riding her bicycle. All the girl talks about is bicycles. The kid draws pictures of bicycles. She researches bicycles on the internet.
Tonight, the elves have a particularly nice surprise for her.
The elves deliver a brand new pink Schwinn. With the gift is a stationary trainer which will allow the girl to ride her bike indoors and exercise her leg muscles in preparation for the glorious day she leaves this place.
“I bought the bike trainer on Amazon,” says one elf. “Elves use Amazon.”
The little girl awakes. She sees the elves rolling a pristine bicycle through the door. The girl’s first words are: “Omigod! Omigod! Omigod!”
One of the elves sets up the stationary trainer. They place a helmet on the child. The girl leaps onto the saddle of her horse and pedals hard enough to make it to Beijing.
When all gifts have been delivered, the elves congregate before the communal tree in the reception area. They sing carols. They do a little choreographed dance.
Soon, the room is full of spectators and medical staffers who eat cookies, cake, and sip chocolate milk.
There are children Facetiming with fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends.
There are lots of people hugging. Some are crying joyful tears. Because joy, you see, is most keenly felt by those who are most deficient in it.
And so tonight, as you prepare for your own Christmas, you’ll be glad to know that thanks to a few helpers in striped leggings, the fifth floor is no longer quiet.
Lisa K Riley - December 25, 2021 6:23 am
Merry Christmas, Sean. Thank you for your writing. Thank you for those wonderful elves on the 5th floor!
Peggy C - December 25, 2021 6:28 am
A very Merry Christmas to you too. Thank you for such a heart-warming column.
Lee - December 25, 2021 6:59 am
Thank you Sean. As I read this post, lovely pictures came to my mind and I could see the children and elves and the mothers’ tears.
Blessings to you and Jamie this Christmas.
Kevin - December 25, 2021 6:59 am
Elves are very emotional. Like this one right here. God bless us every one.
Merriest of Christmases to you, Sean, and to anyone who knows this is the place where you do in fact read the comments for your well-being.
Liz Hoyt Eberle - December 25, 2021 8:18 am
And a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, Sean, and to all the kids on any floor of every hospital. Thank you, Sean for reminding this OLD woman to count my blessings and NOT my tears or fears. 💕🙏🏻🎄🙏🏻 A huge blessing for me is to have found you and your delightful, excellent, from the heart writing with which God entrusted you. Well done, good and faithful servant. 🙏🏻💕
Christine Mayle - December 25, 2021 6:43 pm
Dear Liz, you wrote was is in my heart ! Yes , well done , dear good and faithful servant Sean Dietrich.
Linda - December 25, 2021 8:23 am
Thank you for a little joy and perspective. God bless you, dear friend! Merry Christmas!
Sandi. - December 25, 2021 8:57 am
Merry Christmas, everyone, and especially to the sick children on the 5th floor of that hospital and to the elves who helped spread holiday cheer!
L - December 25, 2021 11:38 am
Diane Clayton - December 25, 2021 11:39 am
This is beautiful. Thank you for brightening our lives with your words. Merry Christmas <3
Lucinda - December 25, 2021 12:01 pm
Merry Christmas Sean and. Jamie. May peace, hope, joy and love of this season be with you. Thank you for sharing your gift.
Dee Jordan - December 25, 2021 12:15 pm
Powerful and pulls on my heartstrings.
Mary - December 25, 2021 12:17 pm
Thank You Sean… for sharing this most wonderful story of Angels & Elves on Earth. Especially on this particular 5th floor & for the children oh how magical for them!
Merry Christmas & Blessed New Year!❤️
sharon - December 25, 2021 12:25 pm
Merry Christmas. And thank you for the gift of your columns, daily reminders of the goodness of others and the gift of life.
Letty - December 25, 2021 12:50 pm
Amen to this!
Billy - December 25, 2021 12:37 pm
Sean, I usually just read the comments, rather than respond. I find the comments to be rich, insightful, wisdom-filled additions to your wonderful column each morning. However, this morning really touched me at an even deeper level. Those nurses ARE Santa’s helpers, his elves, and God’s Angels as well. Thank you all for reminding us at this time of gift-giving’s REAL meaning and effect.
Ann - December 25, 2021 12:40 pm
Merry Christmas,Sean and Jamie. May this be a truly joyful day for all. You are a gift.
Heidi - December 25, 2021 12:50 pm
Merry Christmas Sean and Jamie. I know this one will be rough but know that you are loved by so many and we are holding you, as you hold us, in our thoughts & prayers. God bless us, every one.
Nancy Turner - December 25, 2021 12:50 pm
Merry Christmas Sean. I read your column every day and laugh and cry with you. I hope you know how talented you are and what a precious gift you are to me and so many other fans.
I had to put my sweet 12-year-old miniature dachshund to sleep two days ago. You know how heart-breaking that is. I’m an old lady, a widow and Maggie Belle was my best friend and cherished companion. I just wanted you to know your stories keep the sadness from being so heavy.
Thank you, Sean.
Eric - December 25, 2021 12:55 pm
Merry Christmas to all!! May God bless you Sean for all your uplifting Stories
Ruth Mitchell - December 25, 2021 2:04 pm
Merry Christmas to all the medical personnel who are real-life elves! Merry Christmas to you, Sean and your family. Thank you for the joy you have brought into my life as a real-life writing elf!
Paul Cashdollar - December 25, 2021 1:09 pm
Merry Christmas Sean and Jamie. Thanks for all you do. Those daily rays of light you shed in this dark world help brighten the days. May God bless your work.
Joy Jacobs - December 25, 2021 1:17 pm
I really didn’t want to start out Christmas Day crying. ❤️❤️ Thanks for sharing this. Merry Christmas. 🎄🎄
Denise Walker - December 25, 2021 1:22 pm
Merry Christmas, Sean –to you and yours. The first Christmas after a parent leaves us is always bittersweet. Love to you and Jamie.
Cynthia Harmon - December 25, 2021 1:28 pm
Merry Christmas to you and Jamie! Many thanks to those who work on Christmas!!
Suzanne - December 25, 2021 1:31 pm
I was a Pediatric Oncology Nurse for 20 years. It was wonderful to be a part of those kids lives. Holidays were as your story told always great fun. Children just want to be kids so always could rise to the occasion one way or another.
Nurses & all the tertiary staff are amazing. Thank You Thank You to all. God bless us everyone. Merry Christmas everybody!
Maggie Priestaf - December 25, 2021 2:04 pm
Merry Christmas and thank you…
Paul McCutchen - December 25, 2021 2:16 pm
Thanks Sean and thanks to the elves everywhere. Even the ones without stripped leggings.
Deborah Blount - December 25, 2021 2:19 pm
Merry Christmas Sean! And Merry Christmas to the 5th floor residents and elves. I love a good cry for 😊 happy.
Jan - December 25, 2021 2:40 pm
Merry Christmas to all children everywhere and especially on the 5th floor or any floor of any hospital! May God bless them and keep them and their families and caregivers always! May His face shine upon them and give them peace! God Bless you Sean and Merry Christmas!
Shelton A. - December 25, 2021 2:42 pm
A very Merry Christmas to all on the Fifth floor! My daughter, Erin, is a pediatric oncology nurse here in Jax at the Children’s Hospital. It’s a calling, not just a profession. She is sunny, bright, funny, gentle, and sweet with her charges. But she makes sure meds are taken, vitals checked, and notes are made in the chart. Thanks for the goodness of the angels (elves) of the Fifth floor and for all they did to make Christmas merry and for all they’ll do in 2022 to try to make every day special for their patients. God bless them all, and my Erin, for answering the call for what some would say has got to be one of the toughest jobs there is. Not for them it’s not. A very Merry Christmas day to you, Sean, and Jamie plus your two four-footed young ‘uns!
Stacey Wallace - December 25, 2021 3:55 pm
Merry Christmas, Sean and Jamie! Sean, you made me cry on Christmas Day, but that’s okay. May Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, bless those children,elves, you, and Jamie.
DAVID A WILSON - December 25, 2021 4:06 pm
AS USUAL. GREAT WRITING and great subject concerning CHRISTMAS!!!
Joe - December 25, 2021 4:32 pm
Wonderful. Couldn’t help shedding a few tears.
Karen Callis - December 25, 2021 4:46 pm
Thank you. ❤️
Becky Kaufman - December 25, 2021 5:02 pm
Merry Christmas! God bless us everyone.
Linda Moon - December 25, 2021 5:32 pm
I’ll be cleaning filth from the floor before our Christmas-gathering today. It will be noisy and active…and the noise will be very welcome. “Comedian” was once my nickname on the white board at a cancer center. I want the fifth-floor comedian’s spirit to spread, I pray that the cancer ceases to spread, and I hope he laughs again. After my tears stop falling, preparations will begin for family noise and joy.
Sheri - December 25, 2021 5:33 pm
Merry merry Christmas Sean and Jamie!! You have blessed me and my family this last year or two with your wonderful heartfelt words of encouragement! We love you and God does too!!
Gayle Wilson - December 25, 2021 5:34 pm
Merry Christmas to you and Jamie. Thank you for helping us to remember that all is not merry and bright for many. But I pray that there are elves like on the 5th floor who will give a bit of brightness to those who need light to shine right now.
Chris Spencer - December 25, 2021 6:20 pm
For all you nurses who are sometimes elves and are all the time deliverers of help and hope. Thank you.
🇿🇦 Norma Den - December 25, 2021 6:57 pm
Merry Christmas from South Africa at the end of a lovely day despite several family members scattered all over the country. Your words today have such special meaning & we need to always keep all frontline workers in our prayers. My daughter is a private midwife but happily wasn’t called out today. Sean you may not wear striped leggings but you are the Joy & Compassion elf to all your readers. God bless you & the talent He gave you for reaching peoples hearts. 🇿🇦
MAM - December 25, 2021 7:42 pm
Writing is your talent from God, Sean! And we are the privileged to be the readers of the words that make us totally be on the fifth floor with all those folks. Prayers for recovery for all the children with cancer everywhere. Merry Christmas and blessings to all!
peter caramello - December 25, 2021 9:20 pm
Merry Christmas. Your kindness is what Christmas is all about.
Pat - December 25, 2021 9:22 pm
My prayers for these precious children and their families!
Karen Holderman - December 25, 2021 10:55 pm
Thank you for taking us to the Fifth Floor. The staff is a blessing to each child and their families. The meaning of Christmas resides here.
Steve McCaleb - December 25, 2021 10:56 pm
Thank Almighty God for those special people who remember what Christmas is all about. May God bless you and the children you have so richly blessed with your unselfish humanity. Oh, and before I forget……Happy birthday Jesus.
Anne - December 25, 2021 11:43 pm
Merry Christmas and a big heartfelt thank you to all the elves who make Christmas a joyous event for the children in their care.Thank you, Sean, for your tribute to these elves!
Karen Snyder - December 26, 2021 1:22 am
Thank you. Thanks to you Sean, and thanks to Christmas elves and angels everywhere. Merry Christmas.
Cynthia Russell - December 26, 2021 3:14 am
LOVE YOUR WRITING!! THANK YOU!!!
Donna George-Moskovitz - December 27, 2021 1:05 am
Makes me cry every time I read this. Thank you for helping us all think of others. We are so blessed.
Terrell C - December 27, 2021 2:38 pm
Thank you for posting your articles. Merry Christmas!
charlynecox - December 29, 2021 5:36 pm
I love this! God bless all those who care for others!
Bonnie - December 30, 2021 2:21 pm
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 16, 2022 2:30 am