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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on December 11, 2014

The therapists who saved Christmas

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Children everywhere can sleep soundly tonight. The therapy team at NextStep Rehabilitation Services has saved Christmas.


Yep, the word from the Big Man himself is he’s good to go on Dec. 24 after undergoing two months of physical therapy at NextStep. That’s a relief because, although it’s not common knowledge, Santa Claus, who’s also known as Malloy Shumate of Murrells Inlet, had knee replacement surgery at Waccamaw Community Hospital this summer.

On Wednesday, Santa and Mrs. Claus stopped by the NextStep clinic in Murrells Inlet to spread some holiday cheer.

The Clauses also gave a heartfelt thanks to physical therapist Gena Howlett and physical therapy assistant Dustin Warren for getting the Jolly Old Elf ready for the arduous task of lifting and packing his sleigh with countless sacks of toys.

Needless to say, Howlett and Warren breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Christmas would not have to be canceled this year. And they confided that the pressure was, well, pretty intense. 

“Explaining to our boss is one thing, but trying to tell children around the world that Santa wouldn’t be coming this year was something we knew we could never live down,” Howlett said. “I was so nervous because there was so much pressure to get Santa back in good shape for Christmas, and fortunately for children of all ages, we succeeded. He’s back working with his elves, training the reindeer for the big night and even helping out Mrs. Claus too.“

Howlett and Warren designed a treatment plan to ensure that Santa would be able to regain strength, mobility and flexibility.

“Sitting for long periods of time, then hoisting himself up on all those roofs, not to mention jumping down those chimneys, can be pretty rough on the knees,” Howlett said. “We really worked to be sure that his knee could hold up to the impact and that he could wear his Santa boots.”

As for Santa and Mrs. Claus, they’re grateful for the care and confident that Christmas can go on this year.

“I’m ready, thanks to the NextStep team and my elves, who pitched in while I was immobile,” Santa said. Everything is under control, and we’re counting on a clear flight path without any drones. Rudolph is confident that his nose will be bright enough to guide the sleigh.”

Closer to home, Santa and Mrs. Claus, AKA Malloy and Patsy Shumate, have been spreading holiday mirth for 10 years since moving to Murrells Inlet from Cassatt, just outside of Camden, where Molloy Shumate retired from DuPont.

“Malloy’s mother loved Christmas and had a Santa tree and all kinds of Santa ornaments, so he grew up just loving Santa,” Patsy Shumate said. “About 10 years ago, we decided that we would do this and bring cheer to people in our community.”

The couple visit hospitals and children’s groups and appear at parties in full Santa and Mrs. Claus attire.

“We have so much fun, and the children just love it,” Patsy Shumate said.

And as for the therapists who saved Christmas, did they whisper in Santa’s ear? Warren admits that he quietly slipped his Christmas list to Santa a couple of months ago.

Howlett says just seeing Santa up and ready to go is gift enough.

” I have young children, so I had to be sure he was ready,” Howlett said. “It’s going to be a great Christmas this year.”   


Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 70 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.