Friday 20 October 2017


Having a baby in 'De Coom' is less painful than watching 'Operation Transformation', says Maurice Gueret

The more money we throw at hospitals, the longer their names seem to get. Spare a thought for the humble GP who has to address envelopes to the Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Consultant Private Clinic in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital. Nobody outside the gates is ever consulted about these long-winded names. Nine out of 10 Dublin patients that I know prefer "De Coom". I saw a Cork man on the television recently having to apologise for calling his local hospital "d'regional" when what he should have said was "d'university hospital". I think it's a safe bet that if your local hospital hasn't inserted 'University' in its title by the end of this summer, then it's odds-on favourite for closure, or for re-opening as a small animal clinic.


Speaking of transformation, I saw a few minutes of that lifestyle programme that the late Gerry Ryan made famous a few years ago. You know the one - where happy, well-rounded people are herded up and paraded before thin, angry-looking people for a medieval weigh-in and slagging. It's truly awful stuff. The clothing worn by people on the show seems to show fat people in the very worst possible light, and skinny folk in the best. Watch it if you will, but five minutes of a public humiliation on YouTube was all I could manage. Your grandchildren will be probably see it on Reeling in the Years in 2050 and wonder how television could be so cruel.


Whenever I bring up earwax, my post bag fills up with the stuff. I wonder if it's a peculiarly Irish fascination? Doubtless, the mad race in medicine to specialise at all costs will soon see the appointment of Ireland's first specialist in waxy lugholes - cerumenologist would be the correct term. Patrick tells me that a nurse gave out to him once for using cotton buds in his ears. She told him that the only item that should ever enter his ear is an elbow. It's hard to argue with tough nurses. Patrick, and indeed other readers, have been telling me that syringing is now old hat and that they have installed wonderful vacuum wax extractors in the eye and ear hospitals. A 'hoovering' job, as Patrick puts it. Hope it's not a Dyson, or it might pull out drums, hammers, anvils and stirrups too. I'll stick with the olive oil and gentle jacuzzi jet of warm water.


Last year, I was telling you of the strong opinions held by a lady doctor in Kerry on the subject of how young clinical buckos and lassies are dressing for work in hospitals. In the sartorial stakes, she compared Irish medical graduates most unfavourably with continental colleagues. A reader concurs with some of what she says, but puts the Kingdom in the clear. She spent time in hospital in Cork and reached the firm conclusion that doctors there dress quite appropriately for where they would like to be: sailing. On the other hand, a relation of hers was treated in Kerry General Hospital and was expertly treated by a consultant "who'd show them Cork boys how to dress". I'm staying out of this.


I was sorry to hear about the passing of Dr Maeve Hillery, wife of former President Dr Paddy Hillery, and a formidable doctor in her own right. She was born a Finnegan, daughter of a Galway emigrant who had become a successful builder in Sheffield. Her mother died when she was just four, and Maeve finished her own schooling at Taylor's Hill in Galway. An extremely bright girl, she enrolled in medical school at UCG during the war, at the age of just sixteen. She finished the last few years of her degree in Dublin. Her speciality was anaesthesia, and she went back to England to accumulate much experience in this field. When she came back to Dublin in the mid-1950s, no hospital here would employ a female consultant anaesthetist. Like so many bright doctors in Ireland, plans were hatched for emigration to Canada. But then she met her future husband. John Walsh's official biography of Patrick Hillery pays generous tribute to the other Dr Hillery. This marvellous woman deserves a biography of her very own.


We have our final Irish lesson today. I'm going to give them a wide berth for a while anyhow, as the weekly correspondence is flooring me. I can handle forlorn devotees of the missing fada, but I seem to have upset Gaelic grammarians a few weeks ago by using two comparative adjectives side by side. Children might take more interest in the Irish language, and indeed Irish games, if those who enthuse about them worried more about enjoyment and less about the rigidity of rules. But I have had some nice letters too. Padraig did his Leaving Cert in a diocesan seminary and remembers the boys having a titter among themselves when the priest skipped a passage in the Irish text about the pursuit of Dermot and Grainne. It told how Grainne was taobh trom tortha. Padraig says there is no finer description of pregnancy, taobh being side, trom being heavy and tortha being fruitful. Now that we have finished gynaecology, it's time to give the prostate gland or fhaireog phrostatach a spin. I suspect the Irish word for prostate was a relatively recent invention. Symptoms might include fuail a dheanamh go minic (passing water often), eiri san oiche (getting up at night), deacair e a thosu (difficulty starting) lag ag criochnu (dribbling at the end) and coinneail ar do chuid uisce (urinary retention: this is the phrase we use for when you cannot go at all).

Dr Maurice Gueret is author of 'The Doctor's Case'

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