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Christmas on the Children’s Cancer Ward

Amber is a dedicated nurse on the Children’s Cancer Ward who is working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We caught up with her to chat all things Christmas...

Every child wants to be at home for Christmas, surrounded by their family, scoffing chocolate before breakfast and finding out which treats Santa has brought. But for many sick children and families from across the South West, the holidays will be spent at Bristol Children’s Hospital with an army of compassionate and hardworking staff delivering the very best care, and spreading a lot of festive cheer.

Amber is a nurse on the Children’s Cancer (Starlight) Ward, who is working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year. We caught up with her to talk all things Christmas, and asked her how they make the big day special on the ward.

Rodrigo onc patient

What’s your favourite part of Christmas Amber?

I absolutely love Christmas! There’s nothing quite like the build up - choosing presents for family and friends, decorating the house, and not forgetting the cheesy Christmas music! It’s great to be able spend some time with family and enjoy a home cooked dinner too.

Tell us what Christmas is like on the ward.

There is something pretty magical about Christmas Day on Starlight Ward.

All year round my colleagues and I care for incredibly brave children, going through an extremely difficult time, which often forces them to mature far beyond their years. So for us, it’s about making Christmas on the ward as special and fun as possible; it’s about giving our patients a break from the emotional burden of going through invasive treatments, and a chance to enjoy as normal a Christmas as possible.

On the ward we have a handmade fireplace as part of our decorations and Santa leaves foot prints when he visits! Watching the children in the morning open all of their presents and seeing their faces when we’ve had a visit from Santa on the ward is incredibly special and it’s a privilege to be able to do so.

All of the nurses, doctors and any patients and their families who were able to sat and had Christmas dinner together on the ward, with Christmas music on the jukebox! Last year we all dressed up and the children loved it. Every time I work Christmas day I want to make my fancy dress even more extravagant!

For those who are well enough, we try and plan their medications for the day to give them chance to have some time off of the ward to go home for a few hours, or if they don’t live locally, have some time up at their family accommodation house.

Do you have any family traditions?

My friends and I all work shifts and so it can be tricky to arrange to see each other, but every year we try and find a day in December when we meet up and have our own ‘Christmas day’ with Secret Santa, a full Christmas dinner - the lot!

Before qualifying as a nurse, almost every Christmas would be spent with most of my family at my Auntie and Uncle’s as my Auntie makes an amazing Christmas dinner. Since getting married and starting work on the ward, when and how we celebrate Christmas depends on my shift pattern and splitting our time between mine and my husband’s family. I often end up having about three Christmas days even though I’m working the actual one!

What was the best present you got when you were a child?

When I was 4 I got a bright pink bike with a basket on the front and a bell, I absolutely loved it!

Amber H Onc staff nurse

What’s it like being away from your family on Christmas Day? What motivates you at this time of year?

It can be tough, especially because my husband’s birthday is also on Christmas day, but we simply move our celebrations to another day. Working on Christmas comes with the territory working as a nurse, and what better way to spend Christmas than surrounded by excitable children and their families, seeing the joy on their faces after days of being poorly following a tough round of chemotherapy.

We try to make Christmas in hospital as FUN as possible!

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