Hospitalized children get to feel spirit of holidays with advanced video technology

Children can see Santa with technology utilized in telemedicine

HOUSTON – Dozens of children at a local hospital got to feel the spirit of the holidays, but it was advanced video technology that made it happen.

At Shriners Hospitals for Children, Friday was all about making kids smile.

"We teamed up with Dimension Data, and they're treating our kids to a once-in-a-lifetime experience of speaking to Santa live from the North Pole," said Armand Viscarri, of Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Using advanced video technology utilized in telemedicine, children, such as 3-year-old Sebastian Gonzalez, got to see Santa right where they were being treated.

"He has brachial plexus of the left hand, and he's been a patient here since he was a month old," Sebastian's mother, Elizabeth Zalce, said.

Sebastian can't use his left hand.

"The neurologist said he had a stroke while he was in my belly, and so he's been a patient here ever since," Zalce said. "This is his third transplant surgery."

The hospital was transformed Wednesday into a winter wonderland where the young patients could see the cyber Santa, using technology aimed to make the interactive meeting seamless.

"The technology is very, very advanced," said Evan Jordan, of Dimension Data. "Think of it as a FaceTime call, but on steroids, because the technology connects people so closely together, and you can see here the application is connecting patients with Santa Claus, but think of it with patients and doctors who may not be here in the area."

It could potentially cut down travel and other costs for families.

Liliana, 8, was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, and has limited sight and hearing. Cyber Santa was the only one she'll see before leaving for Mexico after her surgery. She said seeing Santa is the best gift ever.

Of course, with Santa, no one leaves empty-handed. Each child received a gift bag, toys and crafts -- things they can use to enjoy the holiday season.