When most people think of Christmas they think of Jesus birthday and Santa Claus. The spirit that is in Christmas makes the season grand. I have had many Christmas' away from my family working as a nurse. Working to taking care of other people's family, while I miss mine.
The halls are un-usual quiet as each person has their own thoughts about Christmas and the family that it brings together. We have all watched Television around the holiday season as the commercials show houses decorated gorgeous color and mounds of gifts under the tree – everyone laughing and having a good time. The vision so many people compare their family gatherings too.
When I am in the hospital setting on the holidays I always think of one patient that we had many years ago that always brings a smile to my face. He was in his mid-30's and mentally challenged individual. He had a teddy bear he carried every where he went and total ciaos broke out if he did not have his bear.
He had been on the unit for several months. With his child like behaviors the staff were drawn to his excitement over Christmas. His aging parents came to visit almost daily. When his mother walked onto the unit he got so excited that he would jump straight up and down and wrap both arms around her neck like it had been forever since he laid eyes on her. They had a game they played between the two of them. The father stood back with his hands in his pockets and smiled as he watch the game, he had obviously seen played out many times.
The mother had her purse with a "surprise" tucked inside. The young man stood with his eye wide and patting his hands together in anticipation of what she would bring out of her purse. The first few times the staff would even stop to watch – wondering what he was so excited about. She reached in her purse smiling "Are you ready?" out came the zebra fruit stripe gum. Yes gum! Each wrapper had a tattoo that you can put on your hand, he loved them.
With his extended stay due to his outburst of out of control behavior he was going to be staying through the holidays. That means waking up on Christmas morning with out Santa – or so we thought.
His mother had made arrangements for the staff to fill the tree with gifts after 2 AM – not just for him but small gifts for the others that were on the unit as well. The staff were given chocolate chip cookies she had baked and elf hats we could wear.
His excitement over Christmas infected everyone around him – and now we had turned into elfs.
At 2 AM we drug the big box with individually wrapped gifts out to the hall – walking as quiet as we could in between all the giggles decked out in our hats, munching on cookies. We laid the gifts under the tree. In a sack type package, you could tell it contained something soft. It was marked "from Santa". The instructions in the box read "give this gift to Santa". At the time we were not aware of Santa coming through but we sat it aside just in case.
The radio had Christmas music playing through out the night – all the mice on the unit were sleeping, not one person stirring. When we heard a bell ringing. Both of the staff laughed out loud – and the elevator doors opened. It was Santa …
A loud belly laugh came out of the elevator and out sprang the young man from his bedroom – slamming the door open so loud it hit the wall with a bang. The young male patient was at that moment about 6 years old. He was jumping up and down clapping his hands together smiling from ear to ear.
Santa ask the staff if he had left a gift in a bag that he wanted to make sure he received directly from him. We went to the tree and handed him the bag. When he handed it to the young man with his smile stretching from ear to ear – he quickly tore into the bag and found a brand new teddy bear that he grabbed up and gave it's very first hug. From that point he began ripping into the packages left under the tree, but his bear never left his side.
When I left work that Christmas morning there was an extra step in my getty-up. His Christmas spirit had filled the air and left a memory that I will never forget. I don't remember seeing him again once he left the hospital but I never forgot the Christmas that I spent with him that day.
Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At AngelaBrook.com, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring a healthy passion into their role at work.
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