For sick little Jack, the gift of family
The only things George Howard wanted for Christmas were his baby brother home, and some chocolate.
Four-month-old Jack Howard spent his first Christmas in the Southland Hospital children's ward, surrounded by his family.
His mother Anna said the family had been hoping to be home for Christmas, but since Jack had trouble breathing, Christmas had come to him.
"All they [his brother and sister, George and Meg] wanted for Christmas was for Jack to get better, and heaps of chocolate."
Dressed in elf suits, Jack's siblings unwrapped their presents and ate their treats in the children's ward at Southland Hospital.
"It doesn't matter that it is Christmas, we just want a healthy baby," Mrs Howard said.
The staff had been amazing and had even delivered presents during the night, she said.
"His doctor bought him a little teddy bear as well."
The elaborately decorated children's ward was a hit with the Howards' extended family, and the Te Anau family staying in the next room.
Six-year-old Sage Harrington may have spent Christmas in the children's ward while his 15-month-old sister was being treated, but he had loved it so much he was asking his parents if they could all return next year.
The Harrington family were shopping on Christmas Eve when their Lara suddenly took ill.
With a car full of presents ready to return to Te Anau, the family had an unplanned stop at Southland Hospital. They didn't make it home for Santa but between mum and dad and the staff at the children's ward, Santa managed to swing by and drop off gifts.
Dad Tony said it had been a great Christmas morning but everyone was looking forward to going home to have Christmas dinner with the extended family in Te Anau.
Southland Hospital paediatric nurse Shelley McDonald also guided Mr Claus to the cribs of two sick babies who were in hospital on Christmas Day.
Despite the ward being full on Christmas Eve, Ms McDonald said they had managed to discharge 12 patients.
Yesterday morning five children remained. "We do try and get the kids home if we can so that they can enjoy the day with families," she said.
The newly opened four-bedroom Ronald McDonald Family Room at Southland Hospital was at capacity with four neo-natal babies and their families.
The new facility hosted its first family on December 12 and has had a flurry of families through ever since.
Family Room supervisor Helen Walker said Santa did not forget the babies and their siblings on Christmas Eve.
"Presents were left under the tree for all the children."
The Southland Times