Flint, Santa Claus, Hurley Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — The tiniest patients at a Michigan hospital received a special visit full of holiday cheer.

Santa Claus visited 25 prematurely-born infants at Hurley Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Flint, The Flint Journal reported. The babies were too small to leave the hospital, so the head of the North Pole made a special trip to take photos with them last week.

“It means a lot,” said Meochee McCombs of Flint, cradling her 18-day-old daughter, Madisyn. “We know she won’t be home by Christmas, so it’s not like we could actually get pictures with Santa.”

The hospital arranges the annual visit from Kris Kringle to give families a break from the stressful circumstances of the NICU, said Rebecca Jensen, a marketing specialist for the hospital. The unit cares for babies in the region who were born before 36 weeks of gestation.

Santa Claus was portrayed by Montrose resident Dale Nowak, who has played St. Nick for the past 30 years.

“It’s just nice to bring joy to everybody’s heart, especially the moms,” Nowak said. “I know it’s got to be a stressful time of year for them, with the babies here, so as long as I can bring a little smile to their faces … it’s such a blessing to be part of their very little lives here.”

During the visit, nurses helped 7-day-old Nadia White into a stocking for her first photo with Santa.

“It’s so nice that they do this, that we get to celebrate Christmas here,” said Olandria White, Nadia’s mother. “It spreads a little joy.”

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