Santa, please stop here! Meet the staff bringing Christmas to GOSH
30 Nov 2022, 3:16 p.m.
Every child should have the chance to be at home with their family for Christmas Day. That’s why teams at GOSH work around the clock to ensure seriously ill children have the best chance of getting there.
But for some children, treatment needs to continue over the festive period. For them and their families, staff go out of their way to make the hospital feel like a 'home from home'.
Here, two members of staff at GOSH, Dhimple and Beth, tell us more.
“The most magical place to work”
Dhimple has worked at GOSH for 15 years.
Early on it was cardiology that “captured her heart”. For the past few years she’s been based on Bear Ward – working as a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Specialist, Senior Associate Carer.
Right now, she’s fulfilling her dream of becoming a paediatric nurse. She’s halfway through her apprenticeship journey with the GOSH Learning Academy, funded by GOSH Charity.
Dhimple has worked in various roles and on different wards at GOSH over the last decade and a half. One thing that's remained the same, though, is her love of working over Christmas.
“I know this is going to sound really cheesy, but it is just the most magical place to work,” she tells us.
“There's just this energy around the hospital – [it’s] everything from the decorations to the general spirit of people. It’s just such a special place.”
The Play team at GOSH, alongside other staff members, decorate the wards at Christmas, to make the hospital feel festive.
They do the same for other festivals, celebrations and events.
"The Play team is awesome at celebrating everything – whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or a religious festival," Dhimple says.
"It’s really nice when you walk onto a ward and the decorations are already up so you know what the theme is," she explains. "All the patients are constantly involved in lots of different things through play – I think that’s very inclusive."
For Dhimple, support from GOSH Charity is a key part of what makes the hospital so special during the festive period.
“We’re so fortunate to have all the support that we get from the charity," she says. “We have the opportunity to give so much to our patients and families.”
… Twas the night before Christmas
Over the years, Dhimple’s favourite shift to work during the festive season has been Christmas Eve.
“I’d put my shifts in nice and early,” she tells us.
Part of the tradition of working on this special day is wearing a Christmas outfit.
“Every year [the outfit] is slightly different,” Dhimple explains. You could be dressed up as anything, from an elf to Christmas tree to a present.
But, for Dhimple, the “best” part of working over Christmas is seeing patients wake up on Christmas morning, to a sack full of presents at the end of their beds.
“It’s an honour to be able to be a part of that,” she says.
Dhimple also has experience working on Christmas Day itself.
While the wards can be a little quieter, she still finds it can be a busy day – filled with presents, wrapping paper and treats. There can also be an exciting visit from the Fire Brigade, who park a fire engine outside and meet some of the patients.
While the pandemic has meant that Christmas at GOSH has been little different for the past two years, staff have still aimed to make the wards magical.
“We tried our best to make it as special as possible and I’m sure it still was for those patients,” Dhimple says.
Santa, singing and midnight mass
Aside from dressing up on Christmas Eve, another of Dhimple's favourite things about GOSH Christmases is Santa’s special visit.
“Have you met him?” Dhimple asks.
“He’s actually the real Santa. Everything about him is perfect and real. He’s magical with everyone: children, staff...”
Dhimple also loves hearing the GOSH Choir and other live musicians perform within the hospital in the lead up to Christmas.
“It’s just so moving. I don’t think it matters what religion or what hymn they’re singing, just the music and the sound of people singing,” she says.
“’I’ve heard [the choir] many times ... they’ll be in the canteen [for example] and I’ll just be walking through... It’s very emotive but equally joyful... It’s just magical.”
Dhimple also enjoys visiting the GOSH Chapel and midnight mass.
“I’m not Christian but it is just a place you’re drawn to and it’s just warm and accepting and the chaplains are warm and welcoming people,” she says. “It’s a really special place.”
Support from the public makes families’ Christmases a little merrier
Another member of staff at GOSH who has experience working over the festive period is Beth.
Beth is a nurse on Panther Ward, which cares for children and young people having ear, nose and throat, plastic surgery or urology operations. She’s worked at GOSH for five years and spent three years training at the hospital before that.
“My typical shift involves lots of nasogastric tube feeds, looking after artificial airways, drawing up lots of pain relief medicines and preparing patients for being discharged home,” she explains.
Beth has worked Christmas at GOSH three times: 2017, 2018 and 2021.
While spending the festive season in hospital can be tough at times, Beth and her team - like Dhimple - make Panther Ward feel special.
"We try to bring Christmas joy by wearing Christmas scrubs and hats!" she says. Support from the public also helps to bring festive cheer. "We get lots of generous donations of presents and cards from organisations, charities and the general public that make the patients' and families' Christmas in hospital a little bit merrier."
On Christmas Eve, Beth's favourite thing to do is attend midnight mass in the GOSH Chapel. She also enjoys "working in partnership" with Santa, to "make sure the kids still get their presents even when they're in hospital.”
On Christmas Day itself, Beth enjoys eating lunch with colleagues and singing carols in between shifts.
“We are often still pretty busy on Christmas Day caring for our patients,” she tells us. “But we have plenty of Christmas food in the staff room for us to enjoy when we get a spare five minutes.”
Here's a video of Beth singing carols at the nurses' station with her guitar, taken on Christmas Day last year:
Home from Home
By making a donation to GOSH Charity, you’ll be helping to fund the vital resources and support that GOSH needs to get seriously ill children one step closer to home.
Your support can also help bring Christmas to the hospital and make it feel like a home from home for those children and their families. It could help fund parent accommodation close to the hospital, so mums, dads and carers can stay by their children over Christmas.
Supporting GOSH Charity also means you’re helping to fund important services for GOSH staff working to care for the children and their families over Christmas.
Find out more about our Christmas Appeal 2022 using the link below.