It’s not that I don’t feel sorry for poor Thing Two, holding out his painfully twisted arm to me and sobbing uncontrollably. Of course I do. My maternal heart-strings are properly tugged.
The reason I’m smiling, as I administer soothing kisses, is because, for once, I Know What To Do. When a child staggers in, their knee geysering blood, or displaying a lightsaber-shaped wound to the forehead, the Lewes parent can confidently say, ‘Righto. We’re off to the Minor Injuries Unit. Again.’
In an uncertain world, where people can’t get back from their hols, and other people think Nick Clegg will make a suitable prime minister, it’s good to have something as reassuring and stable as the Victoria Hospital up the road. A hundred years old, shy and low-key, it’s always there. Even on Sunday afternoons.
I’ve been to the Minor Injuries Unit a lot since having kids. Not quite enough to have my name noted on a secret ‘child at risk’ register when I swish through the door, but certainly enough to have been gently interrogated last time (septic cut), as to why I hadn’t brought Thing Two sooner. The real answer was: ‘Because if I brought him every time he got a scrape we might as well move in, in which case these joined-together chairs will have to go.’ But instead I explained that I’d been too busy smoking reefers and watching wrestling. This is the sort of answer they are looking for.
Those of you used to the high-tech hospital car-parks of Haywards Heath and Brighton will be astonished to find the one at the Vic is free and unregulated. Therefore you will never get a space. Don’t even try; it’s heart-breaking. Walk, if the injury allows. Otherwise get a cab.
Twice I have been seen straight away (I was the only patient). However, if you do have to wait, you will be pleased to see that there is a chocolate vending machine, a smattering of Lego, and a telly. The telly, tuned permanently to an unsuitably confessional programme, and situated too high up to change, is extremely useful in distracting children from their pain. The small price to pay later will be them asking you what a foreskin is.
When I mentioned my love of the Minor Injuries Unit to Pells Girl, she tried to tell tales of unsatisfactorily mended elbows, but I stopped her mouth with a Garibaldi. I’ll not hear a word against the Vic. The nurses are angels, the admin staff heroes and comedians. It’s not just for children, either. I was once quickly cured of a dreadfully painful and debilitating injury*, and sent humorously on my way.
Minor Injuries Unit, open 8am-8pm, seven days a week. See you there.
* It was a splinter. Look, I couldn’t get it out by myself. I couldn’t find a needle. And it WAS very big. The nurse said it was a whopper, so there.
Beth Miller, 28th April 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith