When walking through the heavy double doors into the paediatric unit at Blacktown Hospital, the first thing one’s eyes land on are the twinkling lights covering every inch of the ceiling.
Strung up all through the hallways of the ward are thousands of glittering bulbs, handmade snowflakes and enough fake snow-covered vines to transport you from the children’s ward right into Santa’s workshop.
For the team at Ward Angels, a charity started by Josie Dincel, this is exactly what Christmas should be – regardless of whether you’re spending the festive season in a hospital.
“The days are so long when you’re in hospital with a sick child, and when that day is broken up with a little moment of joy, it really shocks you out of the moment you’re in,” Josie said.
Years ago, Josie’s third child was sick over the Christmas period. This meant a lot of trips to hospital and time spent particularly at Westmead Children’s Hospital.
Watching a doctor pull out a little containers of bubbles from their pocket to bring joy to her daughter during a difficult period in her health journey inspired Josie to create Ward Angels, a charity to help bring some warmth to the wards with little gifts and big decorations during the holidays throughout the year.
From Mothers’ Day gifts to Easter eggs, the generosity of the community’s donations to Ward Angels means that families can function during the most trying of times.
“I will remember that moment forever,” Josie said of seeing a ward decked out in lights during her daughter’s stay.
“That’s the only thing we will remember from that hospital visit. Things like this may seem trivial but these little things can be the difference between a nice memory and a traumatic memory on a particular day.”
Matching Josie’s infectious enthusiasm is Sarah Edwards, Acting Nurse Unit Manager of the paediatric unit at Blacktown Hospital.
Hours upon hours were spent by Sarah and her team delicately threading paper snowflake chains and stringing them up around the ward.
These are special snowflakes too – children from schools and preschools across the country have painstakingly cut intricate patterns into the paper and sent thousands of them in to deck the ward’s halls.
“Having Ward Angels come out to Blacktown just means everything to me and to the families here,” Sarah said.
“We’re a brand-new unit – we only opened in April this year and we had absolutely nothing for Christmas.”
Sarah also said that it’s not just the end product that’s impressive, but the commitment of the kids staying at the Blacktown Hospital paediatric unit to making sure everything looks perfect.
“When we were putting up all the decorations, we got the children to help us and to see the smiles on their faces when the lights were going up and the big blow-up gingerbread men – they were running up and cuddling them.”
“The joy that Christmas brings to children makes their hospital stay just a little bit nicer. We had a long-term patient here for two weeks and during their stay it was really nice to see them getting involved with the snowflakes and decorating the walls.
“She became like family and was really sad to be leaving the unit when she went home because she’d had so much fun playing with the nurses and getting involved with the Christmas theme. She actually wants to stop in again before Christmas to see all the decorations up and finished!”