Liam Farrell: It was just a sneeze, really it was

He'd looked it up on Google, said Joe, and it suggested he had haemorrhoids.

Pity Google can't do the rectal as well, I thought, if it is so smart, but the privilege of our ancient profession carries with it responsibility.

There are things that need protecting and sometimes that includes unlovely things like Joe's haemorrhoids. Someone had to do something. And I was the only one around.

But as I delved deeply, trying to paint a (particularly revolting) mental picture of the bodily cavity I was palpating (don't we all do that?), nothing in my long years of medical experience had prepared me for the horror that lay ahead.

I suddenly felt a sneeze coming on, and what with both my hands being occupied, there was no way to hold my nose or grab a hanky.

I tried wrinkling my nose, exhaling deeply, even supratentorial override (well, it works for hiccups, as also, curiously and coincidentally, does digital rectal massage).

I begged the gods for their intervention, but the gods are capricious and envy doctors because people trust us and we are a big hit with the girls.

The tension built and built, until eventually: 'Wazoo,' I screamed, catarrh exploding across the room. The elemental force of the blast was stunning, almost like an orgasm but without the emotional commitment, and left me in awe of my body's musculature: such power, such elegance, such co-ordination.

It is the small details I still remember: the beat of opalescent body fluids on pearly white Irish buttocks that haven't seen much sunshine and have remained commendably youthful and free of wrinkles (no need for collagen injections there, I thought, my clinical instincts always alert), Joe's squeal of protest as an uncomfortable experience became a disturbing one, the nurse's face pale with fright, her auburn hair wafting in the gale, reminding me of Woody Allen comedies about autumn in New York, still crazy after all these years.

'I really hope that was just a sneeze, doc,' said Joe.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

Patient receiving flu vaccination

GP practices denied funding to vaccinate their own staff against flu

GPs have hit out at NHS England over a 'maddeningly frustrating' failure to offer...

BMA junior doctor strike action in 2016

Junior doctors to be balloted on industrial action in early January

The BMA looks set to ballot junior doctors in England on industrial action in early...

BMA sign

BMA sets up first-ever ‘strike fund’ to support industrial action

The BMA is about to release £2m from its reserves to pay for possible ballots on...

Dozens of GPs with suicidal thoughts contact specialist service every month

A specialist mental health service for doctors is being contacted by dozens of GPs...

GP consultation

GPs demand this summer 'matched pre-pandemic winter'

General practice needs urgent support to cope with spiralling demand after appointments...

Talking General Practice

Podcast: Looking after GP mental health at a time of crisis

We speak to Dr Helen Garr, medical director of NHS Practitioner Health, about the...