SHERIDAN — Cindy Neukam loves the holidays.
People are always warm and welcoming, she said. Every person she meets is especially thankful to see her.
As they should be.
For the Emergency Department manager at Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Christmas doesn’t entail sitting by the Christmas tree as her family rips open presents. More often than not, Neukam spends her Christmases in the emergency room taking care of those who need help.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just because Dec. 25 is the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t mean accidents cannot happen. While many spend their Christmas with friends and family, local emergency personnel take time away from their families to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday.
In her 42 years in nursing, Neukam has spent 12-hour shifts nearly every Christmas helping others. And most of the time, it’s by choice.
Many nurses in the department have young children, Neukam said. Others have already worked a major holiday this year. She said that if she can take time away from her family to allow others to enjoy the holidays, it’s well worth it.
“Growing up, Christmas was always a special day for me,” Neukam said. “But then when I became a nurse, it was an adjustment to work on Christmas because my heart would want to be at home. Then I saw there was a greater need at the hospital than at home.”
Sheridan Memorial Hospital still maintains a full staff during all major holidays.
Christmas Day in the emergency room starts out slow, Neukam said. But by the time about 1 p.m. rolls around, the patients start flooding in. Some of the most common injuries involve falls on slippery ice, abdominal pain and — depending on if it is a white Christmas — sometimes car wrecks.
“Sometimes people get in a hurry and try to get in where they want to be, then maybe hit ice and over slide a stop light,” Neukam said.
For the Sheridan Police Department, it’s generally a quiet day.
According to Lt. Tom Ringley, SPD typically uses the minimal workforce requirements required by law for both officers and dispatch.
“We don’t go under the minimum manning requirement, but we are ready to handle a normal’s day work,” Ringley said.
The police department uses rotations scheduled a year in advance to decide who works that day. Often, personnel volunteer to switch with others to allow co-worker to spend time with their families.
Ringley said the support they receive from the public is always overwhelming — especially support they receive in the form of Christmas cookies and candies.
“It’s always nice to know that the community is thinking of us,” Ringley said.
For the first time in many years, Neukam was not assigned to work on Christmas. But she was still on call, and with one ring of the phone she could have had to put on her scrubs and make her way to the ER.
“My joy, my passion is to be with the families that bring someone into the ER who is sick, or critical. Christmas is a happy time and it’s a family time,” Neukam said. “And if I can give something to them, it’s reassuring. Because I know that’s the last place they want to be during the holidays.”
Law enforcement officers and hospital employees aren’t the only ones who worked this Christmas. Firefighters and emergency medical employees who man the ambulances were also at the office, on the roads or at your house offering aid if needed. Nurses and other staff worked at the local nursing homes, staff at the Sheridan Senior Center served up a Christmas dinner and staff at facilities like Normative Services Inc. and the Wyoming Girls School continued their workday duties.