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The temperatures are in the 90s, the calendar says July, and yet it feels like Christmas inside Tim Terry's room at IU Health Bloomington.
A former “Santa” himself, Terry has a special connection to the holiday as he and his wife of 45 years have a tradition of starting to decorate in the summer.
"We were doing Christmas in July before it was a thing," joked Terry.
But this Christmas (in July) will be different.
Terry recently underwent gallbladder removal surgery at IU Health Bloomington and the nostalgia set in while he’s been recovering in the hospital.
"My wife always starts getting things out about this time and checking all the light bulbs," said Terry. "She puts a Christmas tree and some decoration in each room, even the bathroom."
So how could he keep their tradition alive while he's at the hospital?
That's where patient care assistant Elizabeth "Lizzy" Lee came in.
Lee bonded with Terry since he came to the hospital. She, too, is a big Christmas decorator.
"I loved asking him questions about the different decorations and the joy his wife would have decorating their entire house. His whole face would light up," she said.
After a few nights, Lee heard from fellow team members that Terry was feeling anxious and homesick. So once Lee clocked out of her 12-hour shift that morning, she rushed home, grabbed her favorite Christmas decorations, and hurried back to the hospital.
With a white Christmas tree and shiny red and white striped spheres, a milk glass "for Santa," and even a festive pillow—Lee entered Terry’s room and surprised him with the opportunity to keep his tradition alive even away from home.
"We decorated, laughed, cried, and talked about his wife," said Lee. "I am just thankful that Tim allowed me to put that kind of joy into his life."
The decorations put a smile on Terry's face, but Lee's kindness is what warms his heart. To him, that's the best present.
"It makes me feel good that people still like to do nice things for different folks. She's just an all-around great gal, and I pray for God's blessings on her."