They say laughter’s the best medicine, which is why humour is prescribed in large doses at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital – especially at Christmas.
“No-one wants to be in hospital at Christmas,” says Dr Paul Fitzsimmons, deputy medical director and stroke physician at the famous city hospital.
“Part of our job is making people feel better and that means making people laugh or smile if we can.”
Paul is one of 900 members of staff working on Christmas day and Boxing Day across the Royal and Broadgreen sites which make up part of the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
For while most of us are still busy tearing into a pile of presents, let alone biting into our first Brussels sprout, there are people clocking into work as usual.
Among them are the teams at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital who tirelessly continue to care for the sick and keep us all well throughout the festive period.
In our mini podcast series, Christmas Unwrapped, we’re meeting those who make Christmas shine and sparkle in the city, people like Liverpool ONE’s Donna Howitt who talks about Christmas at one of the UK’s largest shopping complexes, and Sue at the Big Help Project, who shares what it’s like at a Food Bank. Or what about Michelle O’ Dwyer who gives up her Christmas every year to cook Christmas Dinner for those who need it!
And we’re shining a light too on the superstars making sure the Royal continues to run like clockwork, and reminding ourselves that they’re a gift to the city – at Christmas and every other day of the year…
Dr Paul Fitzsimmons, whose role is to ensure the smooth running of the hospital, will be on call there from 8am on Christmas morning to the same time on Boxing Day. He has been working at the Royal for many years, looking after elderly and stroke patients on ward 2x/y.
“We’ll do ward rounds but try to keep it light-hearted,” says Paul. “It’s a terrible time to be in hospital for people. We try to give people as much time with their relatives as possible and try to keep the ward welcoming.
“We try and get as many people home. When we can’t we try and make sure we are really efficient so people can spend time with their families without doctors and nurses interrupting them. There’s always an opportunity for some humour and having a laugh with people who are here.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Joe Williams, assistant portering manager. Joe started his career as a porter at The Royal 21 years ago, rising through the ranks. It’s a full-on job, transporting people, equipment and supplies around the hospital – but porters provide a listening ear too.
He says: “Sometime patients have a fear of hospitals but they open up to the porters; I’m local so I see a lot of people I know.
“You can explain procedures and what’s going on, and you can allay fears. There are patients you get used to seeing, and it’s heart-breaking when, occasionally, they pass away.”
Joe has spent 15 Christmas Days at work: “Originally I was just rota’d on but as time went by my children got older so I would come in and let people with young children or grandchildren have it off.
“There’s a really good atmosphere and everyone has a smile on their face.
“I remember, about 12 years or so ago, my former duty manager rang me to say Herbert, a local celebrity hairdresser, was coming in on Christmas morning and to have some cages ready. He used to come in dressed up as Father Christmas, fill the cages with Milk Tray (chocolates) and go around all the elderly wards giving them out. He did it every year until he passed away.”
Frenzy will be clocking on on Christmas Day and looking forward to continuing her caring role.
She says it’s not as busy as other times but there are still pressures; yet it’s important to keep it fun for those patients who are in.
“I can’t say how proud I am to work here, especially over the Christmas period,” says Paul. “I go on the wards every day and I see people being looked after really well, I see kindness and compassion and I see humour – which is what you’d expect in Liverpool.”
To all the staff, he adds: “I would just like to say thank you.”
As would we all!
* If you are eligible for a flu jab – get it done. It will keep you out of hospital over Christmas and it might even save your life!
* If you’ve got a cough or cold, go to NHS 111. Think about taking things like paracetamol, staying well hydrated, staying warm and avoiding alcohol.
* We all over-indulge at Christmas but try to take it easy. When it comes to alcohol try to pace yourself, stay hydrated, don’t drink ‘ridiculous amounts’ and don’t drink on an empty stomach.
If you have elderly neighbours or members of the family, check they’re okay, give them a call, pop in or catch up on social media. Ask if they have enough food, that they’re warm and, if you are concerned, call the council-run Careline (0151 233 3800) who may be able to help them.
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