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.

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