Santa’s Elf Brings Comfort and Cheer to Young Patients from the Heart

Monserrat Ruelas, 7, who has a Berlin Heart Active Driver too, shares her Christmas wish with Elfie.

Elfie, a seasonal visitor who might just be Santa’s favorite visiting elf, is back visiting Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, to bring laughter, hope, and a wee bit of mischief and fun to kids staying in the hospital this holiday season.

All the way from the North Pole, Elfie is at the hospital to spread cheer and to act as an ambassador of Santa Claus, reporting back about all the good little and big boys and girls who have gone through a lot this year, especially the young patients at the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center.

This year, the iconic holiday elf had something special to share with the heart patients: his own diagnosis. Last year, while visiting Packard Children’s, Elfie underwent a multispecialty evaluation and received care from the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU). Thanks to Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s large, comprehensive team of pediatric heart experts, Elfie received the highest level of care and is now sporting a Berlin Heart, a ventricular assist device (VAD) that acts as an external heart pump attached by tubes, which sustains a child whose heart may be too weak to work on its own. Of course, this version was shrunk down to elf size.

“We were one of the first pediatric centers in the U.S. to use a Berlin Heart to support children with cardiomyopathy awaiting heart transplant,” said David Rosenthal, MD, director of the pediatric heart failure program, in a 2012 interview. “Additionally, this expertise led to our participation in the landmark FDA-approval study for the Berlin Heart.”

And with the aid of an active driver, a mobile driving unit that allows him to be more portable, the Acute Cardiac Care Unit (ACCU) patient is walking and exercising daily. Dressed in his traditional red jumper and snow-cap collar, Elfie is once again climbing on shelves, computer monitors, even medical cabinets, watching over the good girls and boys at the hospital.

Parents are thankful to the care teams who have helped their children’s stay be a little more joyful and magical this season, and care teams say the little elf helps bring the holiday spirit to the units and is a must for fun in the hospital.

“At Stanford Children’s Health, Elfie helps boost morale among patients, bringing joy, laughter, and some stress relief to our unit,” said Anne Spedding, RN, cardiovascular nurse. “We are having a good run of keeping the tradition going; people are asking for him, wanting to know where he is and how his heart is doing.”

The seasonal elf first appears at Stanford Children’s the day after Thanksgiving and then catches a ride back to the North Pole when his friend Santa Claus visits the hospital.


One Response to “Santa’s Elf Brings Comfort and Cheer to Young Patients from the Heart”

  1. Terry Smith

    Excellent story. Very heartfelt with a happy ending. Keep up the great writing. Look forward to your next story. Merry Christmas and a splendid New Year’s.


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