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Saturday, November 28, 2009

You see a lot of rubbish in the average hospital café...

But fortunately visitors to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton are now able to experience Amelie's larger-than-life presence as they shove their leftover NHS sandwiches into the bin. As of this week, the new infection control posters are up, and Amelie's taken up residence in the café by the hospital entrance. You can feel her eyes burning into your back as you tuck into another doughnut whilst waiting to see the dietician.

Due to a combination of annual leave and all-day clinics across Sussex, I hadn't actually been into my department for a week and a half, but when I strolled in yesterday morning, the Trust's senior graphic designer popped straight out of her office and told me the good news that my daughter had finally been admitted to hospital. Her primary role is to turn heads (and stomachs) in the coffee shop, but she's apparently dotted around other prime locations too.

I could cope with Amelie if she was permanently behind glass.Naturally I was keen to go and have a look, and as luck would have it, they were holding a swine flu vaccination session for staff on one of the wards. So I informed my supervisor that my immediate immunisation against the perils of a pork pandemic was possibly the most pressing priority of my working day, and I was heading straight over there.

Unfortunately she said she'd come with me. As did one of my colleagues.

So the three of us headed over to the main hospital site, them to get an important vaccination, me to look for giant posters of my daughter. Fortunately I managed to steer our little field trip towards the children's hospital, and immediately spotted Amelie through the window from twenty yards away. She was stopping traffic opposite the entrance to the main car park. Before I knew it, my two colleagues were heading straight through the automatic doors, and encouraging me to take photos. We spent the next ten minutes touring the Royal Alex, playing a game of I Spy Amelie. It was so exciting, I forgot to use the alcohol hand gel.

Anyhoo, there are now so many infection control posters up in the hospital that you have to question the Trust's policy on paper use. But they're not all six feet tall. There's a very dinky little one of Amelie on the door of a ward downstairs. There are probably others too, but you soon reach the point where you start to feel slightly uncomfortable walking around a children's hospital with a camera, so we decided to leave before someone called security.

Two minutes later I was discussing my bedroom habits with a nurse. Apparently there are only two questions you need to answer before getting the swine flu vaccination. One is whether you're allergic to eggs (because they go so well with bacon), and the other is which side you sleep on. I was told that having had the injection, I may not be able to lie on that arm for a couple of nights, and might need painkillers by the evening.

To be honest, I thought she was telling porkies about swine flu. All three of us left there with no ill effects and were fine for the rest of the day. Until about 8pm, that is. Lisa was out for the evening, so whilst sitting in the darkness next to a cot, trying to soothe a screaming poster-child, I suddenly realised that my arm was hurting. Within half an hour it had got a lot worse, and at 8:40pm I received the following text message from my boss:

"Phil, does your arm hurt? Mine does!"

I don't know what they're putting in that swine flu vaccine, but my arm feels like it's been savaged by a pig. I think that's where they get the phrase 'ham-fisted'. And I only went over there to see posters of Amelie.