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Santa Surprises Families at Saint Marys NICU

Created: 12/18/2013 7:05 PM KAALtv.com
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- The holiday season is often a time where wishes come true. For some, it's unwrapping the perfect present. But for one family who's spent the past several weeks at Mayo Clinic, the spirit of Christmas came alive today in the form of Santa Claus. If that wasn't enough, their ultimate wish has just been granted.

It's been a busy couple weeks for Santa Claus, but Wednesday he took the time to visit those in need of some holiday spirit at Saint Marys Hospital.

"There's not much more enjoyment I get in the entire year,” said Dr. Jonathan Johnson dressed up as Santa Claus.

The look on the face of four-year-old Tonch Cohenotti when he saw Santa says it all. But Tonch isn't the one that brought his family to Mayo Clinic, it's was his little brother Gianni. Gianni was born just six weeks ago with a heart defect and has spent his entire life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mayo Clinic.

"The main goal when I drove here was to bring my son home, number one priority,” said Gianni’s dad, Matt Cohenotti.

A special visit from Santa brings the Christmas spirit to those who may not get to go home for the holidays.

"I know he's not going to remember Santa, but we will,” said Matt.

You could call him Dr. Claus. the rest of the year, he goes by dr. Jonathan Johnson, a pediatric doctor who works with many babies in the NICU, including Gianni.

As for when Gianni gets to go home, "The doctor said it's all up to him,” said Gianni’s mom, Sherie Cohenotti. That might just be Gianni’s first Christmas present to his parents. Turns out they get to take him home by the end of the week.

"It's so good because we have two other kids at home,” said Matt.

They call it ultimate Christmas gift to have their whole family together again. Dr. Johnson and his little elves - as he calls the child life team at Mayo - have been spreading Christmas cheer to those in the NICU for the past seven years.