Five-year-old dies in Santa's arms as last wish granted just in time

Terminally ill boy in Tennessee hospital just wanted to meet Father Christmas

(Image credit: Twitter)

A terminally ill boy died moments after his final wish – to meet Santa Claus – was fulfilled by a kind-hearted impersonator who rushed to the child's bedside.

The unnamed five-year-old passed away in a Tennessee hospital in the arms of Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a professional Father Christmas.

Schmitt-Matzen had just arrived home from his day job as a mechanical engineer, "when a nurse at a local hospital called and said there was a very sick five-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus", local NBC affiliate WBIR 10 News reports.

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The 60-year-old raced to the hospital, where the child's parents handed him a present to give to their son.

Schmitt-Matzen recalled that the boy "was more concerned about missing Christmas than he was about dying" for most of their conversation, but knew that he did not have long to live.

"He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: 'Santa, can you help me?'", Schmitt-Matzen said.

As the pair shared a hug, the boy drew his final breaths in Santa Claus's arms, with his family watching from outside the room.

"When I felt the life go from him, I looked up, tears running down my face, and looked over at the window and that's when [his] mom started screaming," he told the BBC.

Schmitt-Matzen has been a Santa impersonator for six years, with his wife, Sharon, occasionally joining him as Mrs Claus.

It is the fourth time that he has visited a terminally ill child in his guise as Father Christmas. Despite the emotionally gruelling nature of the visits, he says that he is prepared for future call-outs.

"If somebody calls I'll do it. It hurts, but I'll do it," he said. "I have to be the happy guy that makes this kid feel great and smile and forget his worries."

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