Monday 19 March 2018

Doc's new show: embarrassing, but no sex

It's night-time London, and Dr Pixie McKenna has just got off a flight from balmy Florence, where she was enjoying a few days holiday with her husband Mitch. While for many television stars it would also be a blessed chance at anonymity, Pixie's fame now outstrides her wherever she goes.

"Over there, we're dubbed into Italian, so there is still a level of recognition. It's hard to escape it." And recognition for the 43-year-old medic has often meant people approaching her for a diagnosis. "It still happens to me on a daily basis all these years later. People are quite gung-ho about what they'll ask. London taxi drivers, once they get me in the back of the cab, they'll ask all sorts. You're not allowed to say you'd prefer not to hear it, no more than you'd be allowed to say that you'd rather not hear it when you're out having lunch with your girlfriends."

Pixie is going to be on a new RTE show, starting this November, called You Should Really See A Doctor, and she says that the series, which will also be fronted by fellow Corkonian Dr Phil Kieran, will have a different emphasis to Embarrassing Bodies. "I was describing it to my Dad, and I said, 'It's like Embarrassing Bodies but without the mickeys. Because it ends at 8.30pm, so there's only so much we can really show. But because I'm known for Embarrassing Bodies, which would sometimes have sexual illnesses, people often see me and get quite scared. Like you're looking at their elbow and they're thinking..." That it must be some kind of undiscovered STI? "Exactly!"

The other element of the show, Pixie tells me, is that producers have sought out people who do their own self-diagnosis or who have been nominated by a third party because that third party felt the person they knew should see a doctor. "One of the differences I've noticed between the two programmes is that in Ireland people tend to have a much more personal relationship with their GP than in the UK, and so therefore it might be harder to broach certain problems with your doctor [in Ireland]." It's been written that most now attempt to diagnose themselves online with one in eight getting it wrong.

This sounds like a rather high proportion of people getting it right? "I saw that, it does make me rather worry for my profession", Pixie laughs. "But I think there will be a lot of [health-related] engagement online in the future both for financial and convenience reasons. I'm covered in insect bites right now for instance; there is no doubting the diagnosis, but instead of going to a pharmacist tonight I could look online and work out what to do."

Pixie grew up in Glasheen, Co. Cork. She was named after the family dog. "I have four older brothers and when I was christened Bernadette Anne - a ghastly name - my brothers painted 'Pixie' on my pram in white paint and it stuck." She trained as a doctor at UCC, and after becoming a GP moved to England and practised in Notting Hill, before moving back to Ireland. In 2007 the charismatic Corkonian was involved in the BBC series Freaky Eaters before moving on to the huge success of Embarrassing Bodies for Channel 4.

She and her husband Mitch had their first child, D'Arcy, when she was 40. "Small children are a young person's game, I definitely wouldn't advise other mothers to wait that long. It's very tiring", she says. But however tiring it is, Pixie says she enjoys balancing motherhood with her work as a GP and a TV star. "I'll definitely always have my practice. I really enjoy it. And as for the television work I do, well, the way I see it is you can't have one without the other."

The 'You Should Really See a Doctor' team will be at the People's Park in Dun Laoghaire on September 13, and The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival on September 19. Call (01) 7088195 for more details.

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