THE MOTHER AND BABY
Mum-of-three Jane Bell is used to spending time in hospital, as all her children have grown up with stomach problems. Her youngest, Albert, (pictured) is just 19 months old. Hooked up to wires and tubes, doctors are treating him for a variety of problems with his heart, bowel and brain.
Mrs Bell and her husband Michael take turns to live in the hospital's emergency care ward, so there is always someone with Albert to help feed him.
The difficult part for her is trying to make Christmas as normal as possible for their two other children Lilly, 11, who is epileptic, and Heidi, seven, who is autistic.
"It's hard trying to co-ordinate the family," she explains. "But the staff have been fantastic and help look after the girls when I'm busy. It's just a waiting game finding out when we'll be going home."
Baby Albert is in safe hands, as he is looked after on the Mercury ward by nurse Niamh Geoghegan. She picked up an award in December for going beyond the call of duty. She works with children with bladder and bowel problems, which she told me isn't very glamorous but can be very rewarding.
She added: "It can be quite sad when parents and children have to spend time in hospital over Christmas, especially when they have other children to look after at the same time."
For many families, nurses like Niamh are a lifeline. Colette Murphy-Lucas, whose two-year-old daughter Demelza has been cared for by Niamh since she was just a few months old, said: "She is diligent, determined and works tirelessly with both parents and children."
This year, nurses organised a special gift delivery from Father Christmas on Christmas Day. The children were also treated to a goodie bag delivered by stars of Chelsea Football Club, including Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole.
While mums may have hoped to take babies home for their first Christmas, some tiny tots born prematurely must stay in hospital until their immune systems became strong enough.
Consultant neonatologist Dr Gary Hartnoll told me the best part of his job is seeing the babies finally allowed to go home following treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit.
He said: "Two of the hardest things are telling parents that there's something wrong with their baby which will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives, and also when fully-grown babies die unexpectedly."
Given that doctors can treat up to 32 babies, the ward seems remarkably quiet except for the gentle hum of respirators and beeps of monitors. Nurses try to make parents feel as 'at home' as possible, especially on Christmas Day.
"We make a card for parents, as though it's from their babies," said matron Alex Mancini. "We normally use the child's footprint to make an impression on the card. We also bring round mince pies and chocolate."
Doctors are also working hard to reduce the time young patients spend in hospital, by raising money buy a £1.5million 'robot'. The Da Vinci robot allows a surgeon to carry out operations much more accurately by using four mechanical arms instead of the human hand. Consultant Dr Simon Clarke said: "We're still a long way off raising the money, so we need all the help we can get." A fundraising opera evening is planned for January, with celebrity special guests. For more information about the robot, or how to donate money to the Surgical Theatre Appeal for Robotics (STAR), see www.chtrustfund.org.uk or www.intuitivesurgical.com