Six-year-old Channon Johnson sat in his bed at Children’s Hospital of Georgia on Christmas morning playing with Legos and watching TV when from the hallway came a familiar “ho, ho, ho!”
His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree as Santa Claus entered his room with presents and Nugget, the hospital’s therapy dog, dressed as a reindeer. He smiled and squealed as he opened up more Legos and Hot Wheels race tracks, which were donated to the hospital for Santa’s special visit. Like most children on Christmas morning, Channon immediately began putting the toys together and entering a world of make believe and imagination.
Christmas at the hospital was not what he or his mom, Latoria Johnson, had in mind. They were supposed to leave Christmas morning to go out of town.
Johnson said it was probably a good thing they didn’t leave earlier because Channon, a cancer patient currently receiving chemotherapy treatments, began running a fever that would not break on Christmas Eve. To rule out infection, he had to be admitted to the hospital, where they were able to get his fever to come down.
Rather than go on their planned trip, Johnson brought presents to the hospital to open there. “It doesn’t matter what the place is, as long as we got to celebrate,” she said.
The jolly visitor on Christmas morning made Mom excited as well. “That made me feel a lot better as a parent,” she said. “Because you can’t control what happens, but just the fact that Christmas still means Christmas … that makes it even better.”
Santa visited 97 children in the hospital, including in the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. Some special elves from the hospital staff helped transport wagons full of toys to the children, who smiled as he entered their rooms. To him, he said, that’s Christmas.
“I like the sparkles; I like the smiles,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.