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A Christmas Hero

As a children’s doctor at The Royal Marsden hospital in Sutton, Dr Fernando Carceller is used to working on Christmas Day – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tell us a bit about what you do…

I work at The Royal Marsden as a Consultant Paediatric Oncologist in The Oak Centre for Children and Young People (OCCYP) in Sutton.

What does your job involve?

I am mainly dedicated to the treatment of children with brain tumours.

And you’ll be working on Christmas Day this year?

Yes, I have worked many times before on Christmas Day. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are all used to working out of hours and on bank holidays. We know what we are getting into when we choose this profession.

What is the atmosphere like?

Working on Christmas Day in OCCYP is actually quite nice. The children and parents are really excited with the celebration. Of course, it is very special for them and for the staff looking after them. You can feel the importance of being together as a family more than ever. The ward round I lead with the junior doctors is usually quite lively.

Is there anything special going on for the patients?

Of course! Santa also comes here to bring presents for all the children. It is a very special moment for them. Also, I think we have an elf to create some havoc this year.

Are there any other festive events taking place?

Yes, we have an enormous tree outside the hospital that The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity organises for people to put names on stars. The Celebrate a Life carol service in early December is always well attended when the lights are switched on for the first time. The children love going out to the tree throughout the festive period.

Do you mind working on Christmas Day?

On one side, I obviously miss my family, but, on the other, we are also needed here and that sense of duty is important too. Also, the families appreciate that dedication from the whole team and this is very rewarding. That keeps us going.

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened at Christmas?

Once, when I was on call on Christmas Day, I was told that Santa may not be able to make it, because of some last-minute troubles with the sledge. As a result, I was asked to lend a hand with the presents just in case. The night before I was practising the “Ho Ho Ho” trying to disguise my Spanish accent as much as possible. But, in the end, Santa managed to fix the sledge and all was sorted in time.

Do the doctors/staff have their own Christmas party as well?

We usually try to find some time to have a special lunch, doctors and nurses all together. I must say, the staff in the OCCYP kitchen are absolutely fantastic and they always try to cook something special for us all.

How will you celebrate yourself?

In Spain, where I come from, Christmas Eve is also a big celebration. So, we will try to do something special at the time but there is always a degree of uncertainty, in case there is an emergency. I try not to make complicated plans so I can deal with an emergency when I’m on call.

Finally, what do you love most about your job?

As regards the children and their families, working for them to allow them another chance. For me, this job has taught me to value incredibly the simple good things that happen every day.

If you would like to work off some of the festive indulgence and help raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, why not sign up for The Marsden March? The 14-mile walk between the hospitals in Chelsea and Sutton takes place on Sunday 4 March. See www.royalmarsden.org

Dr Carceller