Santa visits NICU to bring Christmas to families of sick and preemie babies: 'There were tears of joy'

Picture: Little Ryan Mooliyil meeting Santa for the first time. Credit Chris Clark/Spectrum Health Beat
Picture: Little Ryan Mooliyil meeting Santa for the first time. Credit Chris Clark/Spectrum Health Beat 

Christmas must feel a world away for parents spending the festive season by their sick or preemie baby's side in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

Especially this year. Which is why the staff at the Helen Devos Children's Hospital in Michigan felt it was important to bring Christmas to them.

They may not have had the Santa photos they'd envisaged with their newest additions, but their first Christmas may just be extra special thanks to one nurse who went above and beyond to ensure they could meet the jolly man. 

Picture: Natalie Perez-Calas shares a moment with Santa. Credit: Chris Clark/Spectrum Health
Picture: Natalie Perez-Calas shares a moment with Santa. Credit: Chris Clark/Spectrum Health  

Jason Yakes, a registered nurse who works with the NICU team swapped his scrubs for a big red suit and donned a white beard to give the families some much needed joy.

"I was up all night, practicing," he said with a jolly smile under his mask and beard," he joked to Spectrum Health. "I had as many cookies and milk as I could to get myself into the spirit."

Speaking with Today Parents, the RN said he felt moved to brighten the holiday for the families after watching what they had gone through this year.

"As you know, these mums and dads don't get to bring their babies home with them," Yakes told the publication. 

"Anything that can bring these families some sort of normalcy and light is godsend. It makes such a difference in their lives. There were tears of joy."

Mum Mariah Perez-Calas whose daughter Natalie is in care even made the bub a special outfit for the occassion.

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"Having a baby in the NICU is an up and down emotional roller coaster," she told Spectrum Health.  

"But with all of the support from doctors and nurses on hand, it makes us feel very safe and secure. The team guides our hand and make us calm and comfortable during otherwise very hard times."

For Yakes, it was worth the effort to see bring some happiness to the parents.

Picture: Twins Roman and Milo DiPiazza enjoying some Santa snuggles. Credit: Chris Clark/Spectrum Health Beat
Picture: Twins Roman and Milo DiPiazza enjoying some Santa snuggles. Credit: Chris Clark/Spectrum Health Beat 

"One thing that I've missed terribly during this pandemic is smiles," he told Today Parents. "But you could see people's smiles through their eyes. You could tell they were smiling so big under their masks."