Christmas on an intensive care unit

Barbara is the Matron on Flamingo Ward, the home of Great Ormond Street Hospital’s (GOSH) Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). The unit provides care for children under the age of 16 who need intensive care for conditions involving the heart, lungs or airways. Barbara talks about her experiences during the festive season at GOSH.

Christmas preparations

“Christmas is still a very busy time for intensive care, but it’s a nice atmosphere, I’ve not worked on Christmas Day for a little while but I’m always here on Christmas Eve.

“At Christmas, it’s my job to make sure all the staff are happy, that presents are in place for the children and to make sure the staff’s food is there and that all their transport has been arranged. We want the staff and children to have lots of nice food - these are the shifts where people really miss being at home with their families.

“I’ve worked in an adult's CICU unit as well, but to work in a children’s unit on Christmas Day is magical. The nurses get all of the presents ready, they make cards for the parents and children and if we know an admission is coming in on Christmas Day we have spare presents. Sometimes the children are too poorly to open them but it’s for the families really.”

Working together

“The nurses get on with their work and work together with the doctors really well. Because of the situation we’re in, with some of the children being very, very poorly, it’s difficult to say ‘be merry' or 'merry Christmas’ but we all try to make the best of it.

“We get the team out for a Christmas lunch or breakfast together. Often, you can’t get extra staff on Christmas Day, and I think it is important to make the staff feel like they are cared for and looked after. We have staff from over thirty different countries on the ward. Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way, some have different traditions and different things they eat. We all bake a dish and bring it in for a meal and sometimes there are traditional dishes from other countries. 

“We have a big staff party every year. Usually two of the staff arrange it and we go out for a meal. We get some food in for the nurses who are on night duty, so they can celebrate too.”

Christmas’ gone by

“My earliest Christmas memory is probably when I was five. My uncle used to dress up as Father Christmas. We’ve still got a picture. When I saw him as a child I thought he looked pretty good as Father Christmas and it was really believable, but when I look at the picture now he looks ridiculous, he looks nothing like him, just a man with a fake beard. We used to get together with all of my family. There’ll be about ten of us at home for Christmas this year.”

The matron on Flamingo Ward

Worldwide collaboration

“The charity supports CICU with a lot of funding, they built the new unit for us in 2012. All the funded areas and specialist paediatric equipment, such as ventilators and vital signs monitors, is charity funded. Something as simple as trollies have been designed for the unit and they have children’s patterns on and they don’t look clinical. If we were just getting funding from the NHS we wouldn’t have that. Our new trollies now are much more friendly and welcoming.

“The charity funds a lot of education and training opportunities. For example, they have helped fund nurses to go abroad and represent GOSH at international conferences and show what we’re working on here. A lot of this is showing how GOSH is a centre for excellence. The nurses show other health professionals how we do things on CICU. By doing this, the nurses affect other children and hospitals around the world, they share our world-class practices.”

Together at Christmas

We are the official charity partner of Sainsbury’s this Christmas. Check out the official Christmas ad and head to your nearest Sainsbury’s store to buy specially-created gingerbread men and film animation kits – 50p from every gingerbread man and £2 from every animation kit will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. You can also make a donation at the till when you shop in store – just tell the cashier how much you’d like to give.

All the money raised by Sainsbury’s will go towards providing accommodation for families of children at the hospital. Visit the Sainsbury’s website for more information.

With your support, Great Ormond Street Hospital can help more children like Ronan and their families. Donate directly to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and help raise money for:

  • Rebuilding and refurbishment
  • Research
  • Equipment
  • Children and family support

Donate now