Santa Spreading Holiday Cheer at UVA Children's Hospital - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Santa Spreading Holiday Cheer at UVA Children's Hospital

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The University of Virginia Children's Hospital is spreading holiday cheer to some of its youngest patients and their families. Santa arrived there early Monday, and the UVA Medical Center has a wish list of its own this year.

The $141 million Battle Building has been on that wish list since the children's hospital got a major donation for the project in 2006. 

Tuesday, the hospital celebrated the holidays with some of the smallest patients who may receive care in that new facility as they grow healthier.

Santa's first stop in UVA's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) finds Tyler Ceccherini.  "He can't be really stimulated too much, so we can't pick him up and have him out with Santa," said Steph Ceccherini, Tyler's mother.

Steph gave birth to Tyler on November 18. She said, "He was very early; 17 weeks early."

She was visiting Harrisonburg from New Hampshire. Doctors rushed Tyler to UVA's NICU. "The fact they have this here is super important to us, because if they didn't have an NICU like this here, then he probably wouldn't be here," Steph said.

The Ceccherinis will spend Christmas at the NICU.  Dr. Robert Sinkin, medical director of UVA's NICU, said, "It becomes a very traumatic, difficult period of time for families, the parents, and the siblings."

That's why Sinkin dons his Santa costume and delivers gifts and Christmas cheer to the children and their families. "It gives us a chance to at least make them feel like a family," he said. 

The children's hospital family is expanding. The NICU is adding eight beds to care for more babies.  Across the street, the medical center waits for construction crews to deliver a glass-wrapped gift in 2014. They're making progress on the new Battle Building, which will provide outpatient treatments and clinic care.

Laura DeBoer looks forward to bringing her son, Sam, to the new Battle Building when it opens. She said, "They took amazing care of Sam.  They took amazing care of us."

Sam is back in the NICU to visit Santa after spending 94 days there last year. "We get to see so many people who have meant so much to us," Laura said.

Instead of a wish list, the DeBoers add up appointments. Laura said, "We're kind of checking them off our list."

And they're thankful for a healthier Sam thanks to the NICU family of doctors and nurses. "Sam would not have survived if he hadn't gotten this amazing care," said Laura.

Santa visited current and former NICU patients Monday. That unit in the main hospital will connect across to the new Battle Building when it opens. Right now, construction is more than 50 percent complete and fundraising continues for the project.

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