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Deputy Sister Rita O’Hagan helping make Christmas special for Stroke and Rehab Unit patients at Daisy Hill Hospital

Whilst many of us will be thinking of what tin of sweets to open first, Rita O’Hagan, Deputy Sister at the Stroke and Rehab Unit in Daisy Hill Hospital will be doing the rounds.

The Newry woman has worked on Christmas Day a number of times over the years but admits this will be a very different one indeed.

However, her and the rest of the team will be making sure their patients are comfortable this holiday season, and will be bringing out the ward iPad for any who wish to Facetime friends and family.

Have you worked Christmas Day before? 

“I have worked on Christmas Day many times, on day and night duty, over the years. Although it is a busy work day like any other, it generally has been a lovely day to work. In previous years, patients would greet their family members throughout the day and receive gifts. Our hospital chaplains would call and even carol singers on occasion.

“The staff are always in good spirits, and there were plenty of treats for us to enjoy on our break provided by kind relatives and patients and our ward manager.”

Obviously Christmas Day is going to be very different for many of the patients, how are you going to keep spirits high this year?

“We have an amazing team who are very aware of how much are patients miss personal contact with their families every day and especially at Christmas. Within stroke and rehab, patients generally need an extended period in hospital to make a full recovery. Therefore staff build up a good rapport and they become comfortable.

“We also assist with regular phone calls and face time via our ward iPad and this will be a very important and very busy method of communication on Christmas Day. Emotional support from family and friends is so important in aiding recovery.”

Describe how it has been working through the pandemic?

“Working through the pandemic has been challenging for staff and for patients. It is an emotional balancing act for staff who are giving care and compassion to their patients but are also concerned for their own wellbeing and that of their families.

“It has been difficult at times maintaining staff morale and dealing with reduced staffing levels when some are self-isolating. But I never hear anyone complain. Everyone gets on with their work and we support each other.

“Wearing PPE 24/7 has been difficult at times in particular when communicating with patients with sensory impairment or cognitive decline. But generally they are very accepting of it”.

In what has been a difficult year, are there are any positives which you have been able to take from it?

“I have always known that I work within a great team of people. Our Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers, Speech Therapists, Doctors, Pharmacists and our Stroke Nurse Specialist, also our brilliant domestic staff and Ward Clerk.

“But this year has made me realise more than ever how amazing and supportive they are. A brilliant team of people to work with.”

How do you feel about the reaction from members of the public to the work you have done?

“The general public have been very supportive and we see this every day when we talk to them via telephone. They always thank us and express their appreciation. We were always very grateful for all the donations over the years from the general public, local businesses, and The Friends of Daisy Hill”.

What are your plans for Christmas; how will you be celebrating this year?

“I am working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I will hopefully have a lovely Christmas dinner when I finish work and chill with my family. Hopefully they have got me a nice present or two!”

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