Hospitals (and play)

I have a little luxury that I indulge in when we’re in Manchester if it’s a long day or we’re there two days running. Our visit last week was a long long day. There was a problem in Pharmacy making up the drug so Pudding wasn’t given his dose until three hours later than usual.

(Because the drug is injected into the spinal cord it means that there would be severe consequences if any infection was introduced with it. The drug is made up in the aseptic lab – think protective clothing, disinfection, working in sterile environment – and if anything goes even slightly wrong they have to start again.)

If I’m stuck anywhere for any length of time I start to go stir crazy and hospitals seem to exacerbate that. There is always a lot of waiting around – waiting for the next set of observations, waiting for the dose, waiting to see if he reacts badly – and we’re powerless to really do anything much. So what I do is take a walk to the M&S Food Shop for a nice sandwich and maybe even a pudding. It is a definite improvement on the canteen food, but that’s not the luxury. No, it’s the short walk there, and more importantly leaving the building. I go the long way round and cut across the grass. Even though there are no signs saying you shouldn’t I still feel guilty but it’s worth it. The chance to walk outside and gaze at lush green nature, even if it is only a tiny patch, is priceless and is my healing.

Not that Manchester Children’s Hospital is a bad place. I’ve not got much to compare it to having never stayed in one myself, but if you have to spend a lot of time in any hospital I recommend it. It’s pretty bloody brilliant. It was purpose-built in 2009 and obviously has the needs of children very much at its heart. There are toys and cartoon characters everywhere, clown doctors doing their rounds, visitingSmiling lady with a birthday hat on playing with a transformer celebrities and amazing staff…

The most important people though, at least as far as the kids are concerned, are the play specialists. Nope, I hadn’t heard of them either until recently. These wonderful people have a background in childcare but now work in the hospital to offer all sorts of opportunities for play – distracting children from the procedures they are facing and supporting families. And oh my word, they are worth their weight in gold!

The first thing most kids ask when they get onto the research ward is ‘Where’s Emma?’. Non-verbal children like my Pudding rush to give her a hug. She makes each and every one of them feel special and loved. Of course, the nurses do a brilliant job too, but they have to focus on the clinical side and have loads of admin to do as well, so Emma gets to be the fun one. She provides DVDs, spare batteries and wifi, arranges the chill-out room for the teenagers and messy activities for the young ones. She has an enormous smile that never disappears. (And she’s even been known to clean up vomit when the need arises.) Pudding has one T-shirt that says ‘Mad as a box of frogs’ and we have always joked that she should have one too. Madcap indeed, but exactly what we need to keep us all sane in stressful circumstances.

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