The Cantona of Ward 35

10th March 1995 at 00:00
Paul Fisher finds professionals worried that the education of children is some hospitals is isn need of intensive care. Jody Derrick is a 10-year-old who is well used to adults asking him dumb questions. He's a pale, delicate, wilful boy. I'll call him the Eric Cantona of Ward 35 and hope he takes it as a compliment. While he's happy to talk football and says Cantona should be allowed to play again next season, he won't be a nice little boy and tell yet another stranger how long he's been at the Royal Bristol Children's Hospital.

"It's my second school," is what he says. And your other school?

"H-O-R-F-I-E-L-D," he spells, and asks about The TES. He ignores the answer because, journalist-like, he's waiting to pop his next question. I next ask what his best subject is.

"Clicking my knee." There are loud clicks from the little knee sticking out of his Manchester United shorts. Eventually, we dig into his full worktray and he shows exercise books displaying a similar standard of attainment to my 11-year-old. Jody seems proudest of his journal and a page is quoted here verbatim for its quality, its perfect spelling and for the brisk lack of self-pity in its final sentence: "Hospital: Two weeks ago I went to hospital for a course of IVS. The first day I was on Ward 36 because they didn't have a cubicle on Ward 35. On the 2nd night I was moved to Ward 35 - at last! A few days later I got a jumper, teddy, Zig and Zag toys and a badge. The next day I went to the playroom and they have got a video camera and we filmed almost the whole hospital! Most of it was me being buried by soft bricks, playing in the ball pool. I also had 6 needles put into me."

At the end, he's sketched a hand about to be pierced by a syringe drawn to the scale of a pneumatic drill.

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