Finding the spirit of Christmas in unexpected places
Posted on Dec 15 2014 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink
By Sam Wong, MD, FRCPC
I was talking to a friend the other day and they asked what I was doing for Christmas. I responded that, as I have for most of years since I was a paediatric resident, I would be doing rounds in the hospital. As expected, they expressed some sadness and sympathy for me. But I am never sad to work on Christmas. As a general pediatrician, I find December 25 one of the most enriching days of the year to be at the hospital.
The number of pediatric patients is reduced, so only the children who really need to be in hospital are there. That means the majority of kids are at home where they should be. The ones in hospital are happy to get a visit from Santa Claus, who brings each one a large sack of presents that are age- and gender-specific, provided by the hospital foundation and generous donors. For a lot of kids, their main worry is whether Santa will find them if they're in the hospital. Getting a personal visit by the man himself can make their day.
Parents of children who cannot go home have accepted that fact and are intent on bringing Christmas cheer to the hospital, which makes for a fantastic experience when rounding. Their children may be in hospital but there is still much merriment in the patient rooms as they open presents, surrounded by their family members. As the general pediatrician, I also get a chance to hear about and see all their new toys.
I also have found that many of the people who work on Christmas—nurses, physicians, and hospital personnel—have made a conscious choice to be there, so there is a lot of smiling and good cheer. The wards are filled with chocolates and treats. The workload isn’t as heavy, and everybody is happy to be there. It’s hard not to be happy when working on a pediatric floor, where the kids you’re caring for are eager to show you all their new toys and invite you to play with them.
Even as a resident, when I had to be there for 24 hours and there was no chance to spend Christmas with my family or friends, there was always the free turkey dinner that the hospital served to staff. As a resident, that was all I needed to keep me happy on Christmas.
I will always remember my first Christmas as a resident, when I had only one admission during my entire 24 hours in hospital—a unique call day. As I apologized to the family for having to bring their child into hospital on Christmas, this well-dressed couple waved off my apologies and declared that they would just bring the Christmas experience—and all their family members—to hospital with them. It was at that moment that I really understood the spirit of Christmas in the hospital.
It doesn’t matter that we are in the hospital on December 25—the Christmas spirit is in each and every one of us, and our attitude determines how we enjoy the day. You may feel sad for those of us who are on duty on Christmas day, but we have discovered a secret. It’s actually one of the most satisfying days of the year to be working in the hospital.
So Merry Christmas to all, wherever you may find yourself.
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