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In the middle of multi-coloured lights, joyful soothing sounds of jingle bells and competing smells of various cuisines - Christmas has always been a time of year that reunites families.
I remember sticking my clothes covered in snow and my frozen skin to my grandmother’s clay stove, in her tiny house in the countryside, preparing myself to sing carols with my cousin in front of the whole family, secretly waiting to be rewarded with sweets.
I remember not sleeping, waking my parents at five am just so we could unpack the Christmas presents that were neatly stored underneath the tree.
That was long ago, I feel so old now as there is so little left of my family. Illness stole them all away, in a poor and crumbled medical system that I ran away from. Since then, I promised I would dedicate my life to science and justice.
It takes me way more than half a day to visit my parents, and the ticket prices are ridiculous even if bought six-months in advance, so I choose to volunteer to work Christmas. It makes sense, one; knowing the joy of my colleagues who will spend their holiday far away from the hospital corridors, and second; aiming to turn the usual magic of paediatrics into Christmas cheer, for both the staff and the patients who will be on the ward those few days.
Let’s face it, no one really wants to be in hospital at Christmas - patient or staff, but I for one feel terribly privileged to be the one they spend their Christmas with. It’s like we are our own version of a temporary family, sharing the joy of this unique celebration together.
Delivering the real version of miracles – medicine and care – to the ones in need. It is work, but it’s the work we love most (there is no way you could be a doctor or a nurse and do this job for too long without this). To that patient with dementia who will spend their day remembering the same film of the joys of life waiting, in the same NHS chair in which he has been sitting for two months, for his family to visit; to that child who is scared that Father Christmas might not find him to deliver his presents; to that lady who is counting down her days in metastatic cells; to that nurse who has left her children with their grandparents for the third year in a row – life is so unpredictable and hard, we can create small miracles that can make this day memorable. Kindness, smiles, humming of carols, hope, wonder.
We can change their day from an ordinary (if not hated) day at work into something they will remember. From calorific celebrations, to themed jumpers and honest smiles. It will all be a present that will come back to you. It’s your choice. It’s our choice.
Cristina Costache is an ST1 in paediatrics at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and a member of the BMA junior doctors committee executive team