By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Almost every child has a picture with Santa. It’s a tradition in many households to have at least one photo of the children gathered around the jolly man in the red and white suit. The infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Aurora Sinai Medical Center are saved from making the trek to him because Santa comes to them.
Santa played by maintenance electrician Tim Garlie has downed the infamous red suit, and brought a smile and tears of joy to the patients and their parents in the NICU.
After the birth of one’s child, it is expected that after several required days in the hospital the parents and baby can return home. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. According to a parenting website, 10- 15% of babies are placed in the NICU shortly after birth. Although the reasons may vary, the main causes include premature births, birthing problems or health problems.
If a baby comes before 37 weeks they’re considered premature and often spend time in the NICU as they continue to grow with the assistance of an incubator, monitors and feeding tubes. Each baby receives special care from the nurses and doctors. Luckily for the babies at Aurora Mt. Sinai, that are there around the holiday season, they get an extra special treat.
Garlie has been dressing up as Santa for the past ten years and working at Aurora for 29. As a father, Garlie’s own son spent time in the NICU and he understands what the parents at Aurora are going through.
“I just thought it was a Aurora’s NICU Gets a Special Visit from Santa good idea,” Garlie said.
The idea of Garlie portraying Santa originated from the man himself. Garlie explained he dressed up for the holiday meal then the success led to his appearance at the NICU’s alumni party. It’s a celebration for all the babies (and their parents) who successfully transferred out of the NICU. He also wore the suit and shared milk and cookies with other patients.
Over the years, Garlie has appeared less frequently around the hospital as Santa, but he continues to stop at the NICU along with two elves.
According to Garlie, part of what makes the NICU visit such a success is the nurses.
“The nursing staff is just wonderful,” Garlie said.
The nurses dress the babies in Christmas outfits and festive hats, and during the event, they stand by in case something happens.
For Garlie, part of what makes it so heartwarming is seeing the smile on the parents’ faces because although the babies won’t remember this moment the parents will. It’s a matter of bringing a bit of joy around, especially to a place like the NICU.
He’s thankful that Aurora continues to let him portray Santa and that’s he considered their Santa for any occasion. For him, Aurora Mt. Sinai is like a diamond in the rough.
Over the years, Garlie has brought a lot of light and joy into many families’ hearts but his favorite part isn’t just the good feeling he gets.
As Garlie puts it, “I think the whole thing is a favorite moment.”