Liam Farrell: When bad news is actually good news

I rode that surgery like it was a great black stallion, slaughtering my enemies, drinking their blood and rejoicing in the lamentations of their womenfolk.

Every patient was much more than just a life-story, more an epic poem, full of tragedy and triumph, good and evil, despair and hope, and all misfortunes and predicaments were trampled to dust under the iron-shod hooves of my mighty steed.

Then Joe came in, yet again, and at once I was dwindled. My struggle no longer heroic, but instead a Slough of Despond of whiny kids and grumpy old men and sick certs and passport forms and antibiotics and sleeping tablets, and me a deluded old knight astride a moth-eaten Rozinante.

Joe has that effect on me, my golden morning turned to dross, like clouds covering the sun, or switching on Sky Sports and finding the live match is West Brom vs Stoke City; we usually get along best when neither of us is actually listening fully to what the other is saying.

But even on a moonless night there are stars; Joe had dysuria, unusual in young men, and more diverting than his usual complaints, like the exhaustive and rather creepy diary he keeps on the tone, shape, consistency, and colour of his bowel movements.

Careful yet sensitive questioning (because I am sometimes A Good Doctor) revealed (via the usual euphemisms) that Joe had had unprotected sex, and not (this was the real killer) in the usual solitary manner, but with an actual real person, a lady.

Despite my astonishment and revulsion and fascination, however, I didn’t renege on my clinical responsibilities.

‘Joe, you idiot,’ I said, breaking it to him gently. ‘You have a sexually-transmitted disease.’

Most people would not consider this to be good news, but so drear has Joe’s mother-dominated lifestyle been, with such an unyielding absence of novelty, that this shadow also meant a light.

‘Have I really?’ he said (was that tear in his eye?). ‘Gosh, I can’t wait to tweet about it.’

To Joe, it was validation, proof, like getting a certificate which said, ‘You have engaged in sexual activity and are therefore not irredeemably repulsive’.

When an STD is the highlight of your life…

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

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