Santa visits NICU with Gentle Wings

Gentle Wings

When Santa Claus needs team support at Mayo Clinic, he doesn’t have to look far. For special rounds to the patients in the Neonatal ICU, he sends the very people who are most comfortable with the needs of the smallest patients.

Santa Claus has always been about teamwork. This week, his designee Jonathan N. Johnson M.D., chair of Pediatric Cardiology, donned the suit, appointed medical administrative assistant Megan Eisberner chief Elf, and made very special rounds to visit Mayo Clinic’s smallest patients in its Neonatal ICU in Rochester.

In fact, Dr. Johnson has been making these visits since he was a second-year resident in 2006. And he’s quick to point out that his part is easy. “Valerie Stuve” , Mary McCoy and the Child Life team organize it, ” Dr. Johnson says. “They do an amazing job. I just show up for a few hours.”

Stuve sends the compliment right back. “We have such appreciation for Dr. Johnson’s passion for the support of these NICU families,” Stuve says. “And his comfort and ease when holding a baby for the first photo opportunity is so special.”

The Child Life team prepares families for Santa’s arrival a few days in advance so they can plan outfits and schedules if they wish. When Santa is on the unit, he and his team go bedside to bedside, meeting and interacting with the patients and families who want a visit.

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Nicole captured Santa and his Elf

“My favorite part is watching the sweet, thoughtful interactions he has with each baby and family at the bedside,” Stuve says. “It is truly a magical moment.”

To capture those moments, the team arranged  for Dana Brennan Duffney, a desk operations specialist in Laboratory Services and the founder of Gentle Wings Photography, to be on hand. She presents photos as family keepsakes (and graciously shared two images here as well).

Dr. Johnson’s favorite moment is when he holds the “tiny kiddos” for their first picture with Santa, though he has to keep it together as grownups tend to get teary during that photo op.

For the whole team, spending time with Mayo’s smallest patients and their families is an honor and joy. And Dr. Johnson admits to an additional perk, “I love riding on the shuttle in the suit”

This story was taken from the Mayo Clinics Photo of the Week story.

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Carol captured Santa arriving!
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