Working Christmas can be a ‘family affair,’ too

Emergency crew members with no children often work Dec. 25 for coworkers who have families at home

B.C. Ambulance charge dispatcher Ryan Hendren often volunteers to work Christmas day so that fellow dispatchers who have young children can enjoy Christmas morning with their families. Hendren

Whether or not you actually celebrate Christmas, chances are you regularly get Dec. 25 off from work every year.

It’s a tradition that most of Canada takes for granted, but Santa’s not the only one who pulls an all-nighter on Christmas. Police, the fire department and other emergency services step up again and again, sacrificing family time to keep us all safe.

“Everyone accepts that we run 24-7,” says Ryan Hendren, a charge dispatcher for B.C. Ambulance and a paramedic for 14 years come January. “We’re willing to help as many people as we can. Christmas is no different.”

But just because it’s a work day doesn’t mean it’s ordinary. “Because of the nature of the work we do, (your co-workers are) sort of like your second family,” he says. “Even though everybody’s at work, there’s definitely a family feel to it. Everybody tries to have a bit of Christmas cheer and tries to pull together a dinner.”

It’s a little disjointed with paramedics running in and out the door all day and night, but there’s still a sense of the holiday amidst the hubbub.

“I make the best of it,” Hendren says. “I come to work and wear a Santa hat and try to keep everybody cheerful.”

Keeping that spirit alive will no doubt be easier now that they’re in a brand-new building on Leigh Road. The switch from an antiquated facility on Jacklin Road was a sorely needed upgrade, he says.

“We went from essentially a small, dark cave to a bright, modern, very spacious, brand spanking new building. It literally has been night and day.

“Our home feels like a very comfortable place to be.”

Though Hendren, 34, lives in Saanich and has worked at dispatch centres throughout the Victoria region and up Island, he says the West Shore is “definitely home base for us.”

In addition to saving lives and dispatching ambulances, he has also helped make the holidays better for his co-workers over the years.

“It can be tough on people with younger kids, if they’re not there for Christmas morning. I don’t actually have kids, so for me personally, it’s not as big a deal.”

Hendren and others who don’t have little ones waiting anxiously for Santa’s arrival will often offer to trade shifts, where possible. He’s worked many times on Dec. 25 and it usually comes from trading with someone who wants the day off.

Regardless of family commitments, the men and women who have devoted their careers to saving lives and protecting the public take their roles very seriously, and work with dedication every day, holiday or not, Hendren says.

“There are so many people who are so driven to help people any way they can, and they really deserve recognition for that.”

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com