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Life-Saving Surgery Keeps Hagerstown Santa's 55-Year Run Alive

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) -- Every year during the holidays, Santa delivers gifts all around the world, but this year, old St. Nick was worried that he might not make it to Christmas. But hundreds of people in a Western Maryland Community came together to send some magic in Santa's direction.

"Santa" Bud Kline has been the Santa in Hagerstown, Md for more than five decades. Generations of families have snapped their holiday photos with Santa. But in 2018, he experienced some major health complications, and earlier this year, he had to go to the hospital when he developed a serious heart problem.

" I had pneumonia and my heart just went nuts," said "Santa" Bud Kline. " I passed out, they worked on me for half an hour, and then worked on me over a half hour in the ambulance in the parking lot before they took me to the hospital."

"Santa" Bud Kline's condition was so bad, he had to get a device that would help his heart to keep beating.

"It's very serious it's very scary what he had was a very serious situation," says Carol Grove, associate chief nursing officer at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown. "He had a potential to be in terrible shape very quickly, so very very dangerous. I think the staff were able to recognize very quickly what was happening and were able to intervene very quickly."

" The outpouring of support from the community was just incredible, we had hundreds of cards and balloons and gifts and messages," says Grove "It looked like the North Pole in there, it was amazing."

Kids as young as four were telling the big guy to get better. Some letters came from children in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Several letters came from a daycare in Williamsport, Md.

"When she shared that he wasn't feeling well, that was a little bit sad so we were excited when the kids got to send some little cards to him," says Whitney Hoch, a parent.

That love helped Santa get better.

"Emotionally it helped me because I just don't know how to put it because children just mean so much to me," says "Santa" Bud Kline

After nearly two weeks in the hospital, Santa cashed in on a wish of his own. He was released from the hospital just in time for his busy season.

After 55 years, "Santa" Bud Kline is still working to bring magic to the holidays, and because of his recent surgery, he's now thinking about the possibility of continuing with his holiday duties for a 56th year.

"I was going to quit but I can't. I just got a $1000 suit last year. I can't quit now," says "Santa" Bud Kline through tears and laughs.

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