A terminally ill 5-year-old boy took his last breath in the arms of "Santa Claus."
Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who reportedly attends 80 events a year as Santa, was asked to visit the child in the hospital, but when he arrived, the unexpected happened, USA Today reported.
“The telephone rang. It was a nurse I know who works at the hospital. She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus,” Schmitt-Matzen told the paper.
He told her he needed to change, but she said there wasn't enough time. "Your Santa suspenders are good enough," she said. "Come right now.'"
The Santa lookalike said he arrived at the hospital within 15 minutes to a room full of the boy’s family members.
“I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job,” he said.
Everyone left the room.
He handed the boy a gift and had a conversation with him before the boy asked him one final question.
Schmitt-Matzen says the boy gave him a big hug, asked "Santa, can you help me?" and died in his arms.
Schmitt-Matzen says he left the hospital sobbing and it took him days to recover.
"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," he said.