Eric Schmitt-Matzen, 60, a Tennessee professional trainer Santa Claus says he’s having a hard time continuing to play the part after a terminally ill child died in his arms after asking to see Santa one last time.
Eric does about 80 gigs a year annually and his wife sometimes comes with him as Mrs Claus.
He told his heartbreaking experience to columnist Sam Venable of Knoxville News- Sentinel. According to Eric, a nurse he knew at a local hospital reached out to him saying that a sick 5- year old had asked to see Santa, and asked if Eric could come to the hospital immediately.
“I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’ She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now,'” he told the columnist.
Eric got to the hospital in 15 minutes, and met the boys family. He was given a toy by the boys mother to give the child and he gave it to him.
The boy told Eric that he was going to die and so Eric tried to comfort him as Santa.
“When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in,” he told the columnist he told the child.
The boy leaned for a hug from Santa and later died in his arms.
He told the columnist what happened
I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.
Everyone outside the room realized what happened. His mother ran in. She was screaming, ‘No, no, not yet!’ I handed her son back and left as fast as I could.
I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I’ve seen my share of (stuff). But I ran by the nurses’ station bawling my head off. I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don’t know how they can take it.