“Hello, my name is Mai, I came to the United Kingdom from The Philippines in 2001 as a qualified general nurse and this year I will be celebrating my 20 years of service to Tŷ Hafan. I have been nursing for over 25 years now and I can say that the last year was by far the most challenging, scary and toughest of times.
“This time last year, in March 2020, all we could see was a terrifying new disease that was having such a devastating impact on everything we knew and depended on. It took every drop of courage that we had to keep going.
“When coming into work, my colleagues and I did not know what challenges we would be facing as everything was changing on a daily basis, which was very confusing.
“In my training we were taught to mask our emotions when we deal with patients or when we deal with children and families but it had become difficult to do so in such uncertain times.
“However, because we deal with families who are in crisis, whose children are dying, we have to put our personal emotions behind us and put on brave faces as these families need us. We need to be strong for them.
“Wearing PPE for 12 hours at a time and social distancing has made giving care more difficult. Our job is to give comfort to families and we do that by giving hugs. We cannot even do that anymore; it just feels so unnatural.
“Last summer was the worst because we couldn’t put fans on, we couldn’t even put the air conditioning on. But while it was difficult enough for us, it was even harder for the children because with all that PPE on we looked like spaceman to them. They couldn’t see us smiling. They could only see our eyes. Some days it was so difficult and I’d just want to cry.
“But I am quite a hopeful person. I always knew it would come to an end. But when would that be? I would just tell myself and my wonderful colleagues – many also coping with the additional challenges of home schooling – we just had to take it one step at a time.
“And that is just what we have done – and not just myself and my colleagues in the care team, but every single one of us who makes up ‘Team Tŷ Hafan’: our cleaners, our kitchen staff, our maintenance workers, and not forgetting the construction workers who have been working so hard in the most difficult of conditions to complete our much needed £1 million upgrade to the hospice.
“The hospice has remained open and operational throughout the pandemic offering crisis and end-of-life care, although, much as we have wanted to do so, we have simply not been able to offer respite care to all those children and families who we know so desperately want and need it.
“Plus, there is all the amazing work that has gone on beyond our four walls. Our community team and family support teams have had to adapt what they do to deliver care virtually – offering our children and their families opportunities to chat, share, sing and play online as they shielded at home across Wales. Thanks to digital technology, our play specialists have provided activities for the children to access from home.
“People’s support for us has been very humbling. We have had scrubs made for us and even donations of food and drink which was really touching. The support from the public has been very overwhelming.
“Despite all of the challenges, all of the difficulties we are all experiencing, Tŷ Hafan has maintained its positive atmosphere and we have become stronger as a team.
“Tŷ Hafan’s ethos give me immense job satisfaction and fulfilment. I can say that Tŷ Hafan gives more meaning to my life and I am very grateful to be part of such a brilliant charity.