What is it like to work at Norfolk’s busiest hospital on Christmas Day?

Jane Bennett, NICU matron. Photo: NNUH

Jane Bennett, NICU matron. Photo: NNUH - Credit: NNUH

As more presents are dropped off for a Norwich hospital festive gift appeal, caring staff who work on Christmas Day have revealed the traditions that come with being on shift on such a special occasion.

Julie Keeling, senior matron. Photo: NNUH

Julie Keeling, senior matron. Photo: NNUH - Credit: NNUH

Senior matron at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), Julie Keeling, said: 'I love working at Christmas and as a ward nurse and sister I used to work every year, for about 18 years. My husband will be cooking dinner this year and will have it ready for when I come home - he doesn't know this yet - so we can start our Christmas later in the evening when I come home.

'Staff decorate their areas with festive trimmings and trees and play Christmas songs and carols. We also have visits from local choirs who sing on the wards and in public areas which makes it feel very Christmassy.

'Years ago our patients always had presents bought and given to them by the night staff, so when they woke up on the morning they have a gift on their tables to open up, I used to love asking people what Father Christmas had bought them, even thought I'd bought them and wrapped them myself in the lead up to Christmas. We now have the gifts generously donated by the public so it will be a real surprise for me to help people open their presents on the morning.'

For lead chaplain Eleanor Langan, the day starts with carolling on the wards. She said: 'The nurses join in if they can and the patients and their families smile and some shed a tear as we sing the much-loved carols.

Eleanor Langan, lead chaplain. Photo: NNUH

Eleanor Langan, lead chaplain. Photo: NNUH - Credit: NNUH

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'One Christmas night I was called to the special care baby unit. I was asked to baptise a poorly baby. At first I wondered about taking this step on Christmas Day fearing it would become a difficult memory associated with this time of year. But the parents were clear. This was their Christmas gift to their little boy and it would be a precious memory in the midst of the heartbreak. After that I did not hesitate, but remembering another baby born in Bethlehem I baptised the little boy.'

The Send a Smile appeal means all presents get a present, including babies on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

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NICU matron Jane Bennett added: 'All the babies have Christmas stockings on their incubators or cots, with donated toys in them. We usually have enough donated presents so that the siblings can have one too.'

Where to drop off presents

All presents should remain unwrapped so that the hospital can ensure that presents are individually tailored and wrapped for each patient, as well as protecting against potential infection. In addition to gifts, the hospital would also welcome donations of gift bags.

A wishlist is available on the John Lewis website by visiting bit.ly/1qVN7kd and typing in code 751747 or an list is also available on Amazon at amzn.to/2NPwIBc

The hospital cannot accept homemade gifts, electrical items, sharp objects or any used goods.

Gifts can be dropped off at:

• Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich;

• West inpatient reception level one, NNUH;

• Costa Coffee, London Street, Norwich;

• Jet service station, Norwich Road, Halesworth;

• Norwich railway station customer service.

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