Nov 22 2012 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
HARD working medical staff in a brightly coloured children’s ward in Northwick Park Hospital are already gearing up for Christmas.
The nurses and doctors at the Watford Road hospital in Harrow say the Observer’s annual Toy Appeal, which benefits from hundreds of gifts from generous readers, always brightens families’ spirits during the festive season when their children are poorly and would rather be celebrating at home.
Jack’s Place has a capacity for up to 27 children and the six staff who will be working on Christmas Day say they can never tell whether it will be busy or quiet, but they always make sure any ill children and their families are taken care of and still have a memorable day.
The staff work in 12-hour shifts which can be extremely busy, especially at this time of year.
Jackie Waldon, manager for paediatrics who has worked on the ward for 30 years, said: “Around this time there are a lot of gastric bugs going round and we have a lot of children in for that.
“There is also the steady stream of playground accidents, like broken arms and legs.
“Along the side of the ward are the private rooms for infectious diseases and more seriously ill children. There are also oncology patients who come in to see a specialist here.”
The nurses and staff talked about the positive side of their jobs and how they genuinely enjoy coming in each day, ready to face any new challenges.
The day the Observer visited was unusually calm, with only 10 children being treated. However, they said the ‘q’ word was banned when I said how quiet it was in case they saw a sudden influx of patients.
The ward is named after Jack Myers who spent his life raising money for the ward and was the executive president for Lifelife 4 Kids, a charity which provides support for children.
Mr Myers would certainly be proud of the work which goes on today as walking through the corridors of Jack’s Place is an uplifting rather than depressing experience.
The walls are painted in bright colours and the place is full of toys, books, pictures, decorations and even a fish tank – providing plenty of stimulus to keep the children occupied and distract them from the discomfort of their illness.
Nurse Waldon said the Observer’s Toy Appeal always helps bring a bit of festive cheer.
She said: “When they get their presents at Christmas all the children really love it.
“We usually have presents left over from the Toy Appeal so we use those on Christmas Day and also on children’s birthdays if they are here for that.”
Last year, X Factor’s Johnny Robinson played Santa and delivered our reader’s gifts to the children on the ward, taking the time to speak to all the patients and their parents about the challenging time they were having.
Nurse Waldon said: “All the kids look forward to it and especially enjoy meeting the celebrity as well. Johnny Robinson was so nice.
“This year we are doing a whole week of activities and parties in the week before Christmas. It is quite fun here at Christmas.”
Nurse Emma Doxford said: “We are like a family, so we have our own Christmas Day.
“There are loads of stuff I love about my job. We can all help to make them all better and it is such a joy to make them better. It is good to be part of a team.”
All the staff said they wanted to thank our readers for all their generosity and effort in donating toys to the appeal each year.
It was hard not to notice a huge wall filled with cards from grateful patients and parents saying ‘thank you’ for all the staff’s hard work they put into each and every day.