‘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.