Liam Farrell: A painful learning experience

Beauty may be only skin deep, but that's deep enough for me. I'm superficial myself, so I quite understand the desire to change appearance as fashion demands; as the German poet Friedrich Holderlin observed, 'The wise, in the end/Must always bow to the beautiful.'

I must be modest here, as I was once described as a beautiful young man, a modern-day Adonis, with the body of a Greek God (admittedly, this was by my Auntie Mamie, some Irish families are a bit too close for comfort).

So when Joe arrive with a big bandage across his forehead I was impressed by the rakish, piratical and rather dashing effect, though he obviously hadn’t moisturised for a while.

‘Head wounds clearly suit you,’ I said.

‘I tripped over the dog,’ he said.

‘And has your dog ever done this before?’ I asked shrewdly; the experienced clinician always takes a careful past medical history.

‘I don’t know,’ he dead-panned. ‘It wasn’t my dog.’

To show my compassionate, humanitarian side, I unwrapped the bandage. The abrasion was disappointingly small; if it had been any smaller it would have been a protuberance. After briefly considering decapitation, I replaced bandage-zilla with a teeny-weeny sticking plaster, just to show How Much I Care. Joe gave a satisfying little yelp.

‘That hurt,’ he said.

I am always alert to the responsibilities of our profession; though preventive medicine may seem less than heroic, it forms an important part of the consultation.

‘Pain is a teacher, a guide, a learning experience,’ I told him. ‘One that is always there to both warn us of our limitations and challenge us to overcome them.

‘For something no one likes, pain does us a whole hell of a lot of good. Everything important that will ever happen to us in life is going to involve pain to one degree or another; as Shakespeare said, "Pain pays the income of each precious thing". It rips away our vanities and confusions, helps us remember that life is about loving and being loved, about living in the now and accepting the simple joys of the beauty of the world.

‘Some people say that pain is our greatest friend; mind you, some people will say anything.

‘So if you ever encounter a dog again,’ I continued solemnly. ‘Be careful not to trip over it.’

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

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