Ross Cannon, of Dallas, said his family has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.
His daughter Ashley Cannon, 24, was in a serious wreck and has been in intensive care at East Texas Medical Center for a week. The family spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, but doctors expect Ms. Cannon to make a full recovery, he said.
Another of Cannon’s daughters came to the facility Tuesday, and he took her 16-month-old son Eli Soto down to visit Santa Claus at the 26th annual ETMC tree lighting, while she visited her sister.
“We are very impressed with the hospital here,” Cannon said. “They seem to be caring and smiling. We have been blessed.”
The tree-lighting event welcomes the holiday season for the hospital, its patients and the community it serves, organizers said.
Santa sat in his sleigh taking Christmas wishes from a long line of excited children with the help of his elf Jimbeaux. Two of his reindeer, Vixen and Blitzen, were nearby resting up for the grand annual journey.
The East Texas Men in Harmony barbershop chorus sang a capella classics in the background, and the hospital’s kitchen served hot cider and frosted cookies.
Hundreds of people turned out for the annual tree lighting as the hospital celebrated 26 years of performing kidney transplants. Since the program’s inception in 1987, the transplant center has helped 677 patients.
Elmer Ellis, president and CEO of East Texas Medical Center Regional Hospital, said the tradition of the ceremony began the year the kidney transplant program started at the hospital as a way to recognize and thank all those who received and donated kidneys.
“I don’t know if you realize how lucky we are …” Ellis said. “Over the years, (people) came from California and other states, and they came here because we had a short list. We had loving people who donated their kidneys, so we recognize them then and now.”
Transplant patient David Travis, 55, was honored to light the tree this year.
Travis, who has worked for ETMC Athens for 23 years in its financial department, was diagnosed with kidney problems 13 years ago and had a transplant nine weeks ago. His childhood friend Neil Patterson, of Fort Worth, donated the life-saving organ.
“I was humbled and grateful that my friend stepped forward to give me one of his kidneys,” Travis said. “His life-saving gift was the best present I could have received this holiday season. I am honored to light the ETMC Christmas tree to remind everyone of the importance of organ donation and to celebrate ETMC’s commitment to kidney transplantation.”