Christmas is the dream of every child around the world and the last place they want to be on the big day is in hospital.
Dr Veen Vasi will be on hand this Christmas with the help of some colourful scrubs to keep spirits high for all of her patients at Blossom Children’s Ward in Craigavon.
The 42-year-old, who is originally from India, volunteers most years to work the holidays and says she enjoys the colour, happiness and good mood around the ward.
She will be joined by nurse Nichola McKee (32), from Portadown, and Enhanced Paediatric Nurse, Denise Nelson, from Lurgan, to ensure a happy and safe celebration.
Have you worked Christmas Day before?
Dr Vasi said: “Yes, I have volunteered to work on Christmas Day most years. I like to work on this day as its surrounded by a lot of colour and happiness. Everyone is in a good mood. It has met my expectations.”
Mother-of-three, Nichola said: “I have worked Christmas Day before, however, it has been the night shift. The ward has usually been busy with admissions due to winter pressures. There is something special about caring for children and their families, especially throughout the Christmas period. I always feel very privileged.”
Denise, who has also worked prior Christmas Days, added: “It has always been a very rewarding experience as I work with Children. The Multidisciplinary Team works very hard in getting families home in time for Christmas so for those that remain, we try and make it a little more special. There are donations made to the ward in the run up to Christmas so we feel like Santa’s Elves giving them out”.
Obviously, Christmas Day is going to be very different for many of the patients, how are you going to keep spirits high this year?
“Christmas is different this year. I am planning to wear more colourful scrubs, nothing more as we are restricted by Covid-19,” said Dr Vasi.
Nichola commented: “Christmas Day will be different for families admitted to the children’s ward as they are separated from extended family at home due to the restricted visiting. As nurses we try to be understanding of this and make their stay as personal as possible. There is a lovely festive atmosphere on Christmas Day. We play music, provide gifts, wear something festive and give try our best to give families some extra TLC.”
“The Team working in Blossom are all brilliant at remaining happy and positive even during the tough shifts. I have had some great role models throughout the years that have taught me how important it is to make the children and their families comfortable and help them stay positive,” added Denise.
Describe how it has been working through the pandemic?
Dr Vasi explained: “It has been different, sometimes feels socially isolated, it can be frustrating wearing masks and visors which can make it difficult to communicate with parents and patients.”
Nichola commented: “Working throughout the pandemic has been challenging and has made many changes to our practice and daily routine. We have had to adapt quickly and work through very uncertain times. We never would have imagined we would be in PPE almost a year later!”
For Denise it has been a learning experience, with her saying: “It has shown me just how well health professionals come together in tough times. In Blossom we are lucky enough to not be in the full PPE at all times, so I sympathise with those professionals who are.”
In what has been a difficult year, are there any positives which you have been able to take from it?
Dr Vasi stated: “Yes it has been. The virtual clinics are a good development.”
Reflecting back, Nichola said: “I feel that Covid-19 has given us a new sense of appreciation and gratefulness. We have had to force ourselves to slow down and appreciate the little things. It has offered us a new perspective on things that we usually would take for granted. Self isolation has been challenging for many but it has helped people to become more considerate and encouraged us to look out for each other, especially the elderly, sick and vulnerable.
“The main positive is that we now have a vaccine which hopefully will be successful at dropping the infection rate and giving us some normality again.”
Denise added: “It has shown how important community spirit is and how well people will help each other out in difficult times.”
How do you feel about the reaction from members of the public to the work you have done?
“They have been more understanding and grateful when we contact them via telephone for clinic reviews or when we answer their calls back,” said Dr Vasi.
Nichola commented:”Members of the public have been grateful for the care that has been provided throughout the pandemic and understanding of the challenges the NHS have faced.
“They have learned to value the health service and front line workers who have risked their lives daily to help throughout the pandemic. If the public continue to follow guidance it will help the hospital greatly.”
Describing the public’s kindness as amazing, Denise said: “It is very much appreciated and for all those people who worked tirelessly at the start of the Pandemic. To make us scrubs and masks I just want to say thank you.”
What are your plans for Christmas, how will you be celebrating this year?
Dr Vasi said: “Same as always but more socially isolated. We don’t have family here so will miss having friends over but the Christmas tree and Santa are still on!”
Meanwhile, Nichola explained: “I will spend Christmas morning at home with my family. I have three young children so it will be nice to see what Santa has brought before coming in to work in the afternoon. We will celebrate Christmas as a family and all be together on Boxing Day!”
For Denise it is simple: “My plans for Christmas are to come home after my shift and enjoy a big Turkey dinner and lie up and watch some Christmas movies and fall asleep on the sofa.”