Cox Medical Center Branson Christmas Elf.jpg

Many people know of the adventures of the Elf on the Shelf, but there’s a special elf walking the halls of Cox Medical Center Branson who is a little more on the “extreme” side of elfin adventure.

This year, “Elfie” holds a special meaning to the hospital staff: the elf is dressed in clothing made from a cotton fabric printed with red trucks and holiday mittens, the fabric used in the clothing worn by their colleague Kim Johnson, a member of the hospital’s surgery team who lost her fight with cancer just before Christmas 2020.

“Elfie” was Johnson’s idea.

“About four years ago, we wanted to do something fun to boost holiday spirits around the hospital,” Brandei Clifton, communications manager at Cox Branson, said in a press statement. “Kim thought an Elf-on-a-Shelf would do the trick, but even she didn’t know how big her little idea would grow.”

Johnson was concerned the first year she had the elf make an appearance her coworkers would be too busy to participate or think the idea was “too silly” for the hospital environment. The surgery team used the “litmus test for how he’d go over” in the unit.

“I remember handing him over to three of our big, burly male co-workers in green scrubs,” Clifton said. “We told them to have fun with a doll and send us pics. By the time I got back to my office, they had texted photos of them operating on Elfie because he ate too many candy canes. We knew this was going to be fun!”

Johnson was the hospital’s “elf agent” until her cancer progressed to the point she was unable to participate last year. Her co-workers said Johnson’s eyes lit up when Elfie visited her room as she was fighting ovarian cancer. 

Johnson’s coworkers put a full size Christmas tree in her room during her last days, and this year that same tree is in the surgery waiting room. Elfie made his reappearance for 2021 in the tree this week, next to a pair of gold sneakers. Johnson always wore gold sneakers.

“What a special first stop this year,” Cox Branson Surgery Assistant Danna Edgeworth said as she scooted his elf-size suitcases out of the way. “Kimmy would love this and would laugh at all the mischief he’s about to make.”

Elfie has become more “extreme” during his time at the hospital. In 2018, he did small things like knocking over candy dishes. Now, he steals helicopters.

“A lot of staff started planning their time with him the day he left them last year,” Clifton said. “Sounds silly but we kind of forget he’s a toy. Someone last year even poked holes in his box so he could breathe better!”

Elfie is a favorite among patients, who will see him being transported between hospital departments in his mobile gingerbread box house.

“It’s really sweet when a young patient will ask for him or stop us in the hall as they’re visiting and ask what he’s doing today,” Clifton says. “But the best was when Dr. Cameron, our new surgeon last year, asked if she could take a selfie with Elfie to send back home to her family because they follow his adventures from out of state. Stories like that make me smile and I know they’d make Kim smile too.”

As Elfie takes his trip around the hospital this year, he’s carrying the spirit of his “first friend” with him, with a special message printed on a sleeping bag.

“It reads ‘Elfie’s special clothes and bedding are made from the scrubs of his very first friend—the late Kim Johnson who embodied the true spirit of Christmas,’” Clifton said.

Elfie’s adventures will be shared online through Christmas Eve on the Cox Medical Center Branson Facebook page.

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