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T’was a night after Christmas, when out went the call: Hurry! Go now! You must get to St. Paul’s!

by Kris Wallace


There was only one thing on Santa’s Christmas wish list in 2019: a new heart. Thanks to a compassionate family, the incredible team at St. Paul’s Hospital, and the support of donors like you, Santa’s wish came true. We like to think of it as the Miracle on Burrard Street.

Outside the holiday season, Santa Chris and Mrs. Claus go by the pen names Chris Pedlar and Nancy Bean.

In the spring of 2019, Chris went to his local hospital with breathing difficulties. He was told he had congestive heart failure. “I was shocked when they said, ‘go home and get your affairs in order.’” As his health deteriorated, Chris was brought to St. Paul’s Hospital for specialized cardiac care. “We never looked back,” he says.

The Cardiology team put Chris on the waiting list for a new heart. Then, to keep him alive while waiting for the transplant, they implanted a VAD device in his chest: a pump to keep the blood flowing.

“Thanks to Dr. Andy,* I was healthy enough to be Santa that year. I had to put the wires and battery pack under my suit, but no one suspected a thing!” Chris explains. (*Dr. Andy Ignaszewski is the head of Cardiology at St. Paul’s Hospital; he’s affectionately called Dr. Andy by almost everyone.)

Breaking News: everyone at St. Paul’s Hospital is on Santa’s nice list

Then, just days after welcoming 2020, they got the call they had been praying for. On January 5, Chris got a new heart and a new life.

After his transplant, Chris spent almost eight weeks in the hospital recuperating. He remembers being treated like “a king” every single day.

“It takes a village and St. Paul’s has done a wonderful job of including the entire staff in the process of patient care and wellness. Everyone was amazing: cleaning staff, orderlies, physicians, nurses…everyone!”

That same care and compassion was extended to Nancy, too. “There were times when Chris was touch and go. But the staff always asked after me. They made sure I had food and a place to rest close by Chris’s bed.” She remembers one night, the nurses wouldn’t let her go home because it was too icy to drive.

By Christmas 2020, team Santa was able to resume their visits with the children, albeit over Zoom. “It was a special treat for me,” says Nancy. “Santa has always been the one who gets to hear the children’s wishes. With Zoom, I was part of those delightful conversations!” She laughs remembering how many of the children made a point of telling the pair that they had vacuumed or tidied up before their visit with Santa.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Today, Chris is the healthiest, most energetic he’s ever been. “My heart is running like a Ferrari and I’ve gone through two pairs of running shoes to prove it!”

Things in the North Pole department are also getting back on track. Following all the safety protocols, Santa Chris and Mrs. C have resumed their seasonal residency at a local mall. You can follow their adventures on their web page.

“I must admit, I was worried my Christmas magic might be a little rusty. But with my new heart, it’s stronger than ever!”

We saved Santa Chris with two priceless gifts: a heart from a compassionate family and the generous support of people like you. Simply put: complex procedures like heart transplants would not be possible without your support. St. Paul’s is the only facility in BC to perform adult heart transplants: last year, in the midst of the pandemic, we performed 27 of these life-saving surgeries, including the one on Santa Chris. Your gift to Lights of Hope is part of the Miracle on Burrard Street!