Liam Farrell: Follow the example of cows and stay off-grid

I'd just signed yet another sick cert and was considering pulling out my fingernails to relieve the awful tedium, when Lassie rushed in, barking urgently.

'Cool it,' I said admonishingly. 'I'm an experienced GP; I know the score, I've seen the films, I don't need to be barked into obedience.'

When I arrived a crowd had already gathered and there was a festive atmosphere; an ice-cream van tinkled a merry tune, the clink of beer-bottles formed a tasteful counterpoint. Some thoughtful person had brought along a barbecue, and the scent of burning ribs graced the air.

'What is it, boy?' I asked. 'A golden-haired, unmistakeably Aryan little girl trapped in an abandoned gold-mine?'

Lassie gave me a withering look as he led me to the victim; 'This is Ireland, buddy,' he seemed to say. 'We get different kinds of disaster here.'

Sure enough, as crises go it was rather detumescent; Joe had gotten his leg stuck down a cattle grid, which in terms of glamour and excitement was rather disappointing, the synchronised swimming of medical emergencies. Joe was a large person and quite how he had contrived to get his correspondingly large thigh between the bars of the grid was a mystery.

'How did it happen, Joe?' I asked; the experienced clinician always takes a careful history.

'I'm stuck, doc,' he replied helpfully.

A few cows wandered up to see what the fuss was about, but, cows being intelligent creatures, they refrained from stepping on the grid. They did, however, leave a couple of large and pungent souvenirs of their visit.

They don't teach you about this kind of thing in medical school, but the experienced clinician is always ready to improvise. The crowd offered a few enthusiastic but less-than-practical suggestions. 'Cut his leg off, doc,' offered one hopeful and bloodthirsty observer. 'Starve him for a few days, and he'll slip out no bother,' was another idea; Joe looked alarmed at this prospect.

Eventually I commandeered a passing forklift truck, we slathered Joe with grease and he rose out of the grid like a fat, hairy and masculine version of Botticelli's Aphrodite rising from the waves.

'Woof,' said Lassie approvingly, nimbly avoiding my boot.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh

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