Most children get showered with toys and clothes on their first birthday, but for Khristian -- whose first birthday falls on Christmas -- it's the gift of being able to live life at home, and not in a hospital bed, that matters most.
Khristian was born December 25 last year -- three months premature. Since then, it's been a battle.
“He was born extremely premature, and as a consequence of that, has chronic lung disease,” said Dr. Michael Hobaugh, Chief Medical Officer at La Rabida Children’s Hospital.
That means Khristian's on a ventilator 16 hours per day, and had to spend his first birthday at La Rabida Children's Hospital. But, mid-morning he got a special surprise: a visit from Santa himself.
“Your first birthday and you have to spend it in the hospital,” said Santa (aka Paul Mesirow). “That's not fair.”
Fortunately, along with some wrapped presents, Santa's real gift came in the form of some amazing news.
“We just heard yesterday that everything's all set for him to go home in two weeks. So he got a special Christmas present, which is that he gets to go home,” said Dr. Hobaugh.
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Mesirow has stopped at La Rabida every Christmas for the last 44 years, lighting up the faces of children who couldn't be home. Another patient, 1-year old Kevin Davis, was also born three months early and suffers from upper respiratory problems
“He's not old enough to really know who Santa is, but he just couldn't believe it, his eyes lit up!” said his mother, Kayla.
A few rooms away, we met 3-month old Malleah, who was born with a rare abdominal condition.
“She may not understand it, but it's her first Christmas, so it was nice and she smiled at [Santa],” said her mother, Brianna Morris.
All of the children are hoping to be home in a matter of weeks.
“Let's do this at home next year, OK?” Mesirow said to Khristian. “I'll look forward to seeing you at home.”
Mesirow has been visiting La Rabida Hospital every Christmas Day since 1970. He says the reason he started is the medical director of the hospital at the time told him that Santa’s visits gave the young patients a boost that no medicine could match.