Nurse at UIHC helps Santa deliver messages to families in the emergency department

Joe Schmuecker (left) helps Santa Claus write letters to kids and families that visited the...
Joe Schmuecker (left) helps Santa Claus write letters to kids and families that visited the emergency department on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (Randy Dircks/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Dec. 16, 2019 at 6:19 PM CST
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A nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said Santa Claus recruited him to help children that end up in the emergency room.

Joe Schmuecker, a nurse in the pediatric emergency department at UIHC said he receives a number of letters addressed to Santa every day from kids who need a little cheering up while they are in the hospital. He made it clear he is not the one writing the letters, but he is the one delivering the messages.

"We were just trying to make a way for kids that are in a really tough situation that might get some of the worst news that they've ever experienced, just something to take their mind off of what they were here for," Schmuecker said.

Kids will write a letter, and send it express in a mailbox specifically designed by Schmuecker. With a week to go before Christmas, those letters are adding up.

"I'd say between 50 and 75 so far," Schmuecker said.

The emergency department at UIHC is not associated with the UI Stead Family Children's Hospital, they are separate departments. Schmuecker said he realizes there is a level of fun and safety that comes with the children's hospital. It is his goal to make a place that seems scary to some, feel a little bit better for those that visit.

"So when they come in, this is a scary place. We're going to poke them, we're going to touch them, we're going to make their pain potentially worse," Schmuecker said. "So we needed a way to take their mind off of what was about to happen or what was happening. So when they come here it's not: 'hey I went there and they poked me,' [it's] 'hey, I went there and Santa wrote me a letter.'"

Schmuecker said being Santa's messenger was a role that he felt obligated to do.

"We're humans as well," Schmuecker said. "And we're here to let them know that we're not just robots going about our business doing our tests. We actually care about them and their family."

Helping kids see their Christmas wishes come true, one letter at a time.