Durham Cathedral’s Christmas tree

Doctor and nurse to switch on the lights of Durham Cathedral’s Christmas tree

“As we nurse the second wave of this awful disease, please know that we are doing our best. We are down, but we are not out.”

Dawn Kempson, Junior sister at University Hospital of North Durham

A doctor and a nurse from the University Hospital of North Durham will switch on the lights to Durham Cathedral’s 25ft Norwegian Spruce in recognition of their life-saving work on the frontline during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A & E Doctor, Tara Watkiss and Junior Sister, Dawn Kempson will light the tree on behalf of their NHS colleagues across the country at the special online service on Sunday 13 December, 3.30pm live-streamed on the cathedral’s Facebook page.

Tara was one of the many healthcare workers who caught Covid herself while treating sick patients.

She said:

“Covid has been an awful ordeal for the whole world, lots of families have lost loved ones, but a quote that really rings true to me is that ‘the world came together as people stayed apart’.

“I have seen more of a sense of unity and community than ever before and it is a privilege to be invited to light the cathedral tree to signal hope for new beginnings,” she added.

Dawn works as a Clinical Lead Nurse and Junior Sister on Ward 3 which specialises in treating acutely unwell and often confused older adults. Dawn’s twenty years nursing experience was put into practice when she was redeployed to an acute coronavirus ward, helping staff who were trained in plastic surgery and orthopaedics to rapidly develop their respiratory knowledge and develop the expertise needed to meet the specific needs of Covid patients.

Dawn said:

“Nursing the people affected by the first wave of coronavirus is something that will stay with me always. We quickly worked out that this was unlike any condition we had ever come across, with each person needing a huge amount of nursing, medical, rehabilitative and spiritual care.

“The lengths we went to reduce suffering were immense, and I recall often sitting by a dying patient’s bed long after my shift had ended.

“I wanted to be able to tell families that my patients didn’t die alone, that I had been there and that I had tried to help if they felt scared.

“As we nurse the second wave of this awful disease, please know that we are doing our best. We are down, but we are not out and I am delighted to have been asked to help showcase and reflect on the work we’ve done, at this wonderful time of year at the cathedral service.”

Canon Michael Hampel, Vice-Dean and Precentor at Durham Cathedral said:

“The lighting of the tree and blessing of the Crib is a pivotal moment in our Christmas celebration as we bring together the sacred and the secular – the Crib pointing to Christ as the Light of the World and the tree signalling joy and good cheer.

“This year it felt right to honour the true heroes of 2020 who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect us all. We hope you can join with us virtually to pay tribute to the remarkable NHS workers up and down the country at this special service.”

Durham Cathedral is appealing to people who would usually leave a gift under the tree to this year donate to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Toy Appeal online between 7-12 December on their Just Giving page here.

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