Mark Dobson: The work never stops for medics, even at Christmas
In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks forward to a healthier festive season
Towards the end of last week we sat down in the Dobson household to watch our very first Christmas movie of 2018 - that's right, the trees are up, the lights are flashing and we are very much in festive mood here in Waringstown.
Before you pass judgement on our state of mind, just consider for a moment that as Christmas approached last year I was facing it hooked up to a dialysis machine in Daisy Hill Hospital, so I do have a lot to be thankful for and the ability, thanks to mum, to enjoy with an even greater freedom what this Christmas has in store.
So, still over a month to go and we were settled down in front of the TV to watch Kurt Russell take on the role of Santa in the new movie Christmas Chronicles.
What struck me as I watched this feelgood movie unfold was that the recently widowed mother figure - or should I say 'Mom' - was balancing her very busy job working at the local hospital while looking after both her teenage son Teddy and 10-year-old daughter Kate.
From my own personal experience, this is not an extraordinary occurrence, and Santa Claus isn't the only person wearing a uniform and running around working hard on Christmas Eve.
Our doctors, nurses and auxiliaries are doing exactly the same - caring for patients while they are at work, away from their families at Christmas.
Last year, while on dialysis, I was one of those patients who received dedicated care over the festive period, and my heart goes out to the health professionals who continue to place the care of others before themselves.
We so often hear about winter pressures on our health service, which further heap pressure on already overstretched staff and services.
If you do get a chance to see this movie over the Christmas period, just think about those who are away from home at this time of year because they are caring for others. They will always have my love and respect, especially at Christmas.
I want to give a big shoutout to Gordon Speers this week as he prepares the musical arrangements for this year's Christmas Carols from St Mark's as both the Portadown ladies and male voice choirs come together to celebrate the festive season.
This year is the 21st annual service and is being held on December 7 at St Mark's Church in Portadown, with proceeds in aid of Kidney Care UK and Air Ambulance NI.
This promises to be an amazing Christmas spectacular in such a wonderful setting, and I encourage you to seek out one of those coveted programmes through either Winnie's Newsagents in Woodhouse Street in the town or from any of the choir members.
Sticking with what has turned out to be a very Christmassy-themed column this week, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been much in the media. It got me thinking about these one-day events and just how successful they really are at generating publicity and channelling people to buy into a concept or, in the case of these two pre-Christmas days, a product.
Every year we have Organ Donation Week, which highlights the need for people to have that family discussion with their loved ones and to consider signing on the Organ Donor Register.
The crucial difference to Black Friday is that the Organ Donor Register is open and free to register on every single day of the year.
Much in the same way, I am thankful to the Belfast Telegraph for enabling me to provide a regular weekly platform to promote the life-saving message and keep the flame of hope alive for my fellow kidney and transplant patients.
As Christmas approaches, please spare a thought for those waiting for that telephone call which will tell them that their lives are about to change.
That call is right at the top of their Christmas wish list and is truly the ultimate gift which anyone can give. Could you?