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Widower finds strength to continue Santa tradition after doctors save his leg

After his wife died, Allen Young almost stopped believing in himself as Santa Claus — until doctors stepped in and saved his leg.
/ Source: TODAY

When Allen Young lost his wife Laura to cancer just after Christmas last year, he found it difficult to go on with one very important Christmas tradition: dressing up as Santa Claus.

Playing Santa was something Young, who lives in Kansas, had been doing for years, but it wasn't something he'd ever done alone. Laura was always by his side as Mrs. Claus.

"She had a long red coat with white fur around it and she would read 'The Night Before Christmas,' Young reminisced on TODAY.

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As a decked out duo, the pair delighted children and made Christmas special for both themselves and others. The thought of dressing up solo and celebrating without his wife, was hard for Young.

"I was thinking of not doing Santa Claus," Young said. But his ill wife had insisted that he do it for the kids. "To her it was all about the kids."

Young soon found out he had a more serious problem on his hands. While caring for Laura, he'd essentially stopped caring for himself and the consequences could be dire.

"He neglected himself to take care of his wife and his leg looked pretty bad," Dr. David Anderson, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Kansas hospital told TODAY. "That's when I told him amputation was a real risk."

The possibility of amputation brought Young's spirits down even lower.

"I think that upset me more than anything," said Young. "Santa Claus can not have only one leg."

But Young didn't give up completely, and even jested with his doctor, a father of three who said Young's story "hit close to home."

"He told me that I'd get coal if I didn't save his leg, then it became personal," Anderson said with a smile.

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The doctors at the University of Kansas hospital worked to help save Young's leg, coming up with a solution just in time for the holidays: a new knee.

"Dr. Anderson phoned me up and said, and how would you like a knee for Christmas?" Young said.

The surgery appears to have been a success, as Young is back in his red Santa suit, putting smiles on children's faces, which is just what his Mrs. Claus would have wanted.