There is nothing quite like going home for Christmas – but for some poorly youngsters in Sheffield, it is not an option.
In the run up to the festive period, it is a key priority for big-hearted staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital to make the season as fun and enjoyable for sick patients in their care.
And while they try to get as many youngsters as possible home for Christmas Day, there are those that sadly are not well enough to leave the hospital’s wards.
Many medical staff also forego Christmas at home with their family in order to keep the hospital ticking over, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Twelve-year-old Courtney Brunt will be spending her third Christmas in hospital this year.
The youngster, who has cerebral palsy and scoliosis, is awaiting an operation, but doctors are currently trying to build up her weight so she is strong enough to undergo surgery.
Mark Brunt, her dad, said: “It’s horrible having a child in hospital at Christmas, as it means the family is broken up at a time when they should be together.
Mark, of Skegness, Lincolnshire, said: “The rest of the family live 90 miles away so I’m torn.
“I will be going home to spend Christmas Day with Courtney’s sisters, Mollie and Kierra, but will ring up to speak to her and will be back the next day. I know she is in incredibly good hands or I couldn’t possibly leave her.
“The staff here are amazing, whatever we need they are there to help.
“They try to make it as nice for the patients as possible at Christmas and let me put a Christmas tree up for Courtney in her room to make it more festive.
“Hopefully later into the new year, Courtney can have her operation and come home. Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive, but you have to take what life throws at you.”
To keep poorly children smiling over the festive period, staff deck out the wards with sparkling decorations and plan a host of special activities and events to keep everyone entertained. This includes a visit from Santa Claus who makes a special trip to hospital with a little help from the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity.
Thanks to donations, each child staying in hospital will wake up to a special gift at the foot of their bed on Christmas morning.
David Vernon-Edwards, charity director, said: “Every child deserves a magical Christmas, and this is even more important for those staying in hospital over the festive period, some away from their families.
“Christmas presents will help brighten their day, but donations to the charity will help us build the new wing for our hospital.
“This will provide children with play areas and create dining rooms so that families can enjoy their Christmas dinner together in a bright and peaceful environment.”
Some of the children’s favourite characters, including Spider-Man, Frozen’s Elsa and Anna, and the hospital charity’s lovable mascot, Theo the Bear, have also visited patients during December.
Donna Webster-Payne, a play specialist on the hospital’s outpatients ward, will be keeping the festive spirits high on Christmas Day.
She said: “If you can’t be at home for Christmas, this is the next best place to be. We make it as jolly for the patients as possible.
“On Christmas Day, there will be presents and bacon sandwiches for patients and their families to get the festivities started.
“I’ll be giving up my usual Christmas Day but so what? This is as much a part of my life as my home life is.”
Other areas of the hospital will continue to function as usual too, including the accident and emergency department where a child in need can arrive at anytime.
Radiographer Sam Parker will be on standby in the X-Ray department in case a patient in urgently requires an X-Ray or CT Scan.
Sam said: “The hospital never stops, so we need to be there, as we don’t know what the day will bring.
“It’s my first Christmas Day working, but my family have said they will wait until I finish so I can join them for Christmas dinner.”
It will be support worker Tracy Mason’s first Christmas on the wards too.
She said: “I’m not quite sure what to expect, though I’m told it’s always a nice day.
“As a support worker, I’ll assist the nurses by washing, dressing and feeding patients and making beds, to keep the ward running smoothly.
“I’m quite excited about Christmas Day, as Santa is coming to deliver presents and we will have a good old sing song to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.”