For the first time in decades, James Pruss is spending this December making appearances as Santa Claus. Until the Spaghetti with Santa event in North Little Rock on Dec. 2, Pruss says he had forgotten how much he enjoys the gig.
“It’s fun to see the looks on the kids’ faces when they see me – especially the younger ones,” Pruss said. “Some of them are really nervous.”
The requests often put a smile on his face. Some make him laugh out loud.
“An 8-year-old told me he wanted a Camaro. A real Camaro! I’m not sure if his feet would even reach the pedals.”
Others pull at his heart strings.
“She told me she wanted her pawpaw back. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that one.”
Pruss is able to get back to playing Santa and other hobbies because he no longer has pain in his wrist. He spent 36 years installing and repairing car washing equipment. He’d even built some from the ground-up. Over the years, Pruss would often injure his hands. In 2016 he was looking for a new hand surgeon for a consultation.
“We were in the hospital following my wife’s hip replacement so I started asking around. Everyone told me to see Dr. Wyrick.”
Theresa Wyrick, M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon at UAMS who specializes in hand and upper extremities. In 2016, she diagnosed Pruss with carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands and cubital tunnel syndrome in his elbows. She repaired his right hand and elbow and Pruss was able to go back to work.
Months later, Pruss reinjured himself when he grabbed a pipe wrench. He’d heard something pop and then felt excruciating pain. He’d had another surgery bu
t the pain remained in his wrist.
“Dr. Wyrick was studying my x-rays and noticed my ulnar bone was too long and that it was impending my nerves and tendons,” Pruss said. “I was game for anything.”
The ulnar and radius are the two long bones in the forearms that extend from the elbow to the wrist. In August Wyrick performed a surgery in which she shortened Pruss’ ulnar bone.
“The idea is that we’re decompressing the outside part of the wrist and making the ulnar bone shorter than the radius bone,” Wyrick said. “It’s a procedure to give function and eliminate pain.”
In his follow-up visit a few weeks later, Pruss told Dr. Wyrick the pain in his wrist was gone. It’d been nagging him for 15 years.
Pruss thanked Wyrick and told her that he was able to get back to doing things he enjoyed because his wrist felt better, including playing Santa Claus.
“Using the skills I’ve learned to serve others and ultimately get them back to the things they love is rewarding,” Wyrick said. “I helped him. And now he’s brining joy to others this holiday season.”
Wyrick’s children, 8 and 4, took photos with Santa at a Christmas party this year. They were excited to learn that their mom fixed his hand.
“Dr. Wyrick will sit and talk to you like she’s known you all your life,” Pruss said. “She’s one of the most caring doctors I’ve ever had.”