Seeing a good GP has become a lot more affordable, thanks to the talents of an extraordinary Waterford doctor who has begun to traverse the country's theatres with his one-man show. Entitled A Prescription for Happiness, Dr Mark Rowe's performance brings punters on a journey of empowerment and has been receiving excellent reviews. All nights sold out in his native Waterford, and last week he brought his unique show to the Civic Theatre in Tallaght, Dublin. Mark is a wonderful motivator who has an almost missionary zeal for his philosophy. He teaches theatre-goers and attendees at his workshops how to put positive thinking back into their lives so that they can bounce back from adversity. Keep an eye out for this very legible prescription and see drmarkrowe.com for further details.
It's a well-known fact that every house in Ireland has a photo of JFK in the sitting room, the Sacred Heart in the hall and a dusty green tin of Zam-Buk ointment on top of the wardrobe. In years to come, they may well have company. A CD called The Gloaming, performed by a group of musicians of the same name, is taking the country by storm. Now I start with a little confession. I know nothing of traditional-Irish music. There wasn't a single folk album in my home except a Sharon Shannon CD that a visitor must have left by accident. The other day, I hopped into Celtic Note on Dublin's Nassau Street to purchase this album that everyone has been raving over. And what they say is true. It's a revelation. There are no spoons, forks, bodhrans, diddly-eyes or platoons of thunderous tap dancers bobbing up and down out of raging rivers to give you cluster migraines. It is simply the most beautiful and haunting rendition of Irish airs and songs that you will ever hear. Two fiddles, one guitar, a sean nos virtuoso and an inspired choice of piano to keep the beat was all it took. Five star musicians, who were born to be together. I listen to it every day and haven't felt as good in years. This winter I'm prescribing The Gloaming remedy for everybody.
I have been explaining medical specialities to readers in recent weeks, and this week I thought we'd cast an eye over the nerve field, or, as we call it, neurology. There are four main types of specialist in this field. Neurologists would be the most common (though at just 50 or so, we have very few in Ireland compared to developed countries). Neurologists specialise in diseases of the brain and nervous system. More common diseases like epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and stroke, and less frequent ones like multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease would be on their treatment lists.
They might also be asked to investigate symptoms like unusual headaches, weak legs, blackouts, odd walks, dancing eyes and palsies or paralysis. Neurologists are physicians, so they don't operate on you like surgeons. Their operating-theatre counterparts are the neurosurgeons, of which there are just over 20 in the country. Most are to be found in specialist centres like Beaumont Hospital, Cork University Hospital and Temple Street in Dublin.
Their principal role is in the management of conditions like brain tumours, bubbles in blood vessels, serious head injuries, bleeds on the brain and congenital (which means born with them) childhood diseases like water on the brain (hydrocephalus) and spina bifida.
Some also do epilepsy surgery and others specialise in surgery near or on the spinal cord or other nerves in the body. Legend might have it that the brightest stars of any medical quiz team are the brain surgeons, but with apologies to all the neurosurgeons we know and love, I'd line up with the conscientious objectors to such nonsense!
Neurophysiologists and neuroradiologists are doctors who specialise in doing investigations on the brain and nerves, and a neuropathologist is a doctor who studies biopsies of nerve and brain tissue and might conduct post-mortems on patients who die of serious neurological diseases. Next week, we'll cast an eye over what distinguishes a cardiologist from a cardiac surgeon.
Last week I promised to discuss with you some more remedies that have been sent in to me for split fingertips. One reader suffered quite badly from them for two years after a fire in her house. She swears that eating plain and unadorned natural yogurt (no need to make up silly names for good bacteria) and a cap of aloe vera in orange juice did the job for her. Aloe Vera is a well-touted remedy for everything in the alternative health world, but 2,000 years later, scientific evidence is still lacking for its efficacy in relation to most ailments, the exception being some research that showed it might help in the healing of minor burns. That's interesting, given the experience of the reader. Other suggestions from helpful readers are the Snowfire Healing Tablet (it's actually an ointment stick) which has been made for many years by J. Pickles & Son in Yorkshire. It has a dozen minor ingredients, including paraffinum which stops skin drying out, but sadly not all chemists stock it. Another reader gets Dermalex Repair from her chemist and her only problem is the plastic tube it comes in - hard to squeeze when fingers are sore. She wonders why manufacturers won't go back to metal tubes. The expense, I'd say. My last suggestion originated from a nurse in Cavan. It is Elastoplast Antibacterial Waterproof (silver). They come in packs of 10 strips and she says they do a great job. In my experience, nurse always knows best.
Dr Maurice Gueret is editor of the 'Irish Medical Directory'.