By Carlos Correa

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Christmas often brings families closer together, but not everyone is lucky to be with their loved ones during the holidays.

A doctor from Sutter Medical Center decided to do something about it. He’s trading in his white coast for a red one.

“She smiled. I made her smile,” said Santa.

One by one, blood and marrow transplant patients at Sutter Medical Center are getting a big surprise from a familiar face.

“Ho, ho, ho,” he said.

His real name is Dr. Elias Nicholas Kiwan, an oncologist who for the last five years has become more than just a doctor. He’s become a ray of hope for people who are in the fight of their lives.

“They would not know me until I talk because I have accent. So, once they know they start smiling and some people cry,” he said.

Sacramento dad, Jose Ruiz was diagnosed with leukemia. He says the toughest part is being from away from his son on Christmas, but Santa helped turn things around.

“It was a great, surprise. It’s a great thing. It cheers us up,” said Ruiz.

Santa’s visit has become so popular that even hospital staff come in on their day off to pay him a visit. They even take pictures with old Saint Nick.

“It’s indescribable, because our patients, a lot of them don’t have good endings and every year, he brings tears to their eyes in a good way because leukemia is a horrible diagnosis for anyone and he can bring tears of joy to patients. It’s very emotional. He cries,” said nurse, Paul Sterling.

For patients like Vashan Atkinson who still doesn’t have a diagnosis, a visit from Santa helps keep him optimistic about his future.

“For me, I’m happy to wake up every single day and so for anyone who is down, life is peaks and valleys, one day you’re in a valley, the next day you can be in a peak. So, just take it day by day and be happy to wake up and see the next day,” he said.


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