DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Five-year-old Lauren Melton is as excited for Christmas as most kids.
But, this year, it will be different.
She’s spending some of the holiday season at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where the pandemic has prompted tight restrictions on who can visit.
“This is actually our first stay without family. We have family members that are usually here,” said Jennifer Melton, her mother.
Lauren was born with part of her heart missing. She’s had three open heart surgeries and struggled with seizures.
“Time just goes so fast. And you just, you try to make sure they’re healthy and happy and have a long life,” said Jennifer, wiping away tears.
She’s intent on building memories with her children.
In the midst of Lauren’s latest hospital stay, she’s grateful for a new one.
Wednesday morning, Dec. 2, via Zoom, Santa Claus appeared in Lauren’s room.
“That’s a hug from me,” he said, urging her to wrap her arms around herself.
Sleep deprived and fasting with her daughter, Jennifer welcomed the happy distraction.
“It definitely helps,” she said.
This year, Santa Claus won’t be making his popular appearances at NorthPark Center in Dallas, but he is doing virtual visits with all the proceeds going to Children’s Health to advance medical research on pediatric illnesses and enhance patient care.
Santa is also scheduling special visits with the hospital network’s patients, like Lauren.
“It touches my heart to see some of their situations and their families,” said Santa over Zoom.
He admits, he misses seeing children in person this year.
“It’s hard… It’s hard… I miss their physical presence,” he said.
The holidays this year will different for everyone, he knows.
Being honest about your feelings, he said, may help.
“I would say, don’t avoid acknowledging the disappointment and sadness, but don’t dwell on it either, because there’s a lot of love out there and a lot of joy to be had,” he said.
His visit brought some of the joy to Lauren and to her mother, who recommends still finding a way to seize special moments.
“She was very excited to see Santa,” Jennifer said, looking at her daughter. “That’s just an experience that your kids growing up will remember. Don’t miss out.”
They go on sale every Sunday at noon for the following week for $25.
Children can talk to Santa and will receive a picture of the visit.
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