I like to bring good news. All the more so when this column gets credit for happy clinical tidings. Following the demise of Margaret Thatcher last year, I wrote about Dupuytren's contracture, a finger-pulling, claw-like condition of the hand that afflicted the former PM, writer Samuel Beckett and other figures, commonly those with Nordic or Viking heritage. At the time, I mentioned a new injection treatment called Xiapex for this condition, and one reader has got in touch to tell his happy story.
His wife spotted the story and they found out that their health insurance only covered an operation for the contracture, but not the injection. A crazy situation. After some negotiation over price, and some delay caused by the medicine moving from one company's repertoire to another, he was booked into a private hospital for the job. The result? His finger was straightened after 24 hours. He no longer shakes hands like a Mason, he was back to golf in four days and playing better, too, with a looser grip.
I have a nice new Sudocrem story this week. You may recall our investigative work here into the Cabra chemist who invented the remedy many moons ago. A veterinary surgeon in the sunny south east retired recently after almost five consecutive decades of being out all hours. The occasion was marked by his secretary, who arranged to have a cake baked and decorated for the event. And it was no ordinary cake – he sent me a photograph. Astride the delicious icing was a rotund-looking, edible vet, armed with two testing syringes, with an edible cow lying prostrate before him. At his side was a cake decoration in the form of a red tub, clearly marked Sudocrem (his universal remedy for all things dermatological for 40-something years). There was also an iced bottle of Oxytet LA (a trusted antibiotic) that, doubtless, also accompanied him on his rounds. Behind every good vet is an even better and kinder secretary. Take a bow. We'd all happily retire to a cake like that one.
Physician, heal thyself? A fascinating survey about playing doctors crossed my desk a few weeks ago, and I had been meaning to discuss it here. It was conducted by a lady doctor, Dr Harrington, and she surveyed a large group of family doctors in the north-west of the country about what happens when they get sick themselves. Just over 60 per cent of GPs said they had their own GP, a figure higher than I expected, and I wondered if a number of them have a GP they have never visited. A whacking 93 per cent had private health insurance, which is no resounding vote of confidence in public healthcare in Ireland, while 85 per cent said they would work whilst sick, and just over 20 per cent said they had visited their GP in the previous year. When asked why they might be reluctant to attend a GP themselves, the answers were interesting. Reasons included embarrassment, taking up another doctor's time, fears about being treated differently as a doctor, not being able to get a locum if time off was needed, and a small number even expressed fears about confidentiality. Just over 30 per cent said they would bother to go for a general check-up, and worries about cancer and heart disease would be the sort of thing that would get them into a surgery. Well done to Dr Harrington for a marvellous piece of research. You see, doctors aren't really that much different from everybody else.
Trip to the Orient
One of my medical correspondents is back from a trip to the Orient, where she found a whole new world, full of human beings (as she puts it so well) with the same hopes, fears, joys and sadnesses as ourselves. She tells me that, unlike in Ireland, they don't waste time worrying about politics, and they simply trust their rulers to be decent, ethical and look after their citizens. (She didn't get to North Korea, I'd say!) She found this strangely refreshing, as she would follow politics closely at home and finds it winds her into a regular state of infuriation. The doctor took a special interest in signs on her visit, especially those written in Chinglish and Koreish. In a Hong Kong hotel, a sign read "Please do not smoke on the bed." Another place had doors marked "Sterilised regularly." Her hotel in Beijing advised guests that "Police monitor the internet 24 hours – and anyone against the relevant laws will be lawfully responsible for the aftermaths." In the same city, a lavatory had a sign saying "Come always in a hurry, going also flushing." And a plaque on the rickety Great Wall baldly advises "No climbing!" In South Korea, a menu offered her "cheese and clackers", and a sign at the country's airport warned that "If you have unknown object from anyone, you might be rejected to be on boar." She tells me that squat toilets are the norm in China, outside of hotels, but South Korea is big on heated toilet seats, with integrated bidets and driers. And, if your husband is over six feet tall, he can expect to be photographed like a celebrity wherever he goes. Now that I know all that, there's nothing for me to go for!
I'll round up this week with a few malapropisms. Tom writes to tell me of his time as a factory manager in Dublin when what he calls a "true blue Dub" told him his day of absence was caused by an infection of the mastitis bone of his ear (mastoid). And a reader from the Limerick/Kerry border tells me of a dear doctor relation of hers who once ministered to the locals. He treated nuralagy, bronical pneumonia, plucamas (mumps), meagrams in the head (migraines) and occasional romancin' (delirium). She tells that, in that neck of the woods, they still eat markerl on Fridays, the day before Sotherdays, and they drive lurries, have cousins called Jurrys and Flurrys, and are, generally, as happy as pigs in a puddle with none to eakle (equal) them.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine