If the tabloids have taught me one thing, it’s that getting prosecuted doesn’t look like much fun. Ill-fitting suits, everyone staring at you in the courtroom, being stretchered out when you collapse in horror after losing the case – not really my thing. When I was compiling a book from my junior doctor diaries, my publishers also seemed keen to avoid this kind of scenario, so arranged for a barristers’ chambers to give it all a once-over before pressing Ctrl-P.
The ensuing legal report was longer than my book itself – it made Lord of the Rings look like a limerick. My learned friends reminded me that parents are likely to remember the dates their children were born, and it would be inadvisable to identify the young man who “degloved” his penis while sliding down a lamp-post. On their counsel, I tweaked personal details and smeared Vaseline on the lens of various clinical events, and as a result I’ve happily remained on the right side of Belmarsh prison ever since publication a year ago. I was therefore sent into a mild arrhythmia to receive an email this morning with the subject line: “I WAS IN YOUR BOOK!”
A tidal wave of amniotic fluid
The book in question, This is Going to Hurt, at one point recounts a tale from the mid-2000s of a hungover medical student assisting me in a Caesarean section. Caesareans are GBH to each of the senses – the stench of diathermy burning through flesh, the weighty splosh as a tidal wave of amniotic fluid hits your scrubs, and a minimum of half a litre of blood welling up. Basically, all your Halloweens have come at once. As a result, a C-section is probably the worst place to be when your tongue still tastes of Jägerbomb and you’re sweating rogan josh through your eyeballs. I had delivered the baby and was busy sewing up the uterus, when the medical student fainted, face-planting right into the gaping abdomen.
And here, staring at me from my inbox, is that same med student un-surgical-masking himself. Of course, he’s no longer a medical student – he now works as a consultant surgeon*. We agree it’s best all round if we keep this our little secret, and he assures me that these days he’s better at remaining vertical during operations.
*I’ve learned from the lawyers and changed his specialty there. He’s actually a consultant anaesthetist.
Waiting for May
Another press conference from Mrs May, another failure to announce her resignation, or any kind of Brexit breakthrough, or…anything really. She has basically become my mother, texting an urgent “CALL ME” that has me rush out of a meeting, only to hear some non-news about her lunch with Monica or that Nordic walking has been cancelled due to poor weather.
Three faints and a seizure
My final on-stage event of 2018, this time at the Hammersmith Apollo. The house lights go up and I ask any NHS staff to raise their hands – it’s more than half of the audience. (There were probably more still – it’s like on a plane when they ask if there’s a doctor on board and you keep your hand down just in case someone else volunteers first and you can get back on with reading your John le Carré novel and worrying that every little noise is the left wing trying to fall off.)
With the best part of two thousand people holding their hands up, it’s probably the safest place to have an emergency in London. No medical crises tonight, but the tour has managed to rack up a grand total of four – three faints and a seizure. When the ambulance crew arrived for the last, they seemed slightly surprised to have the patient handed over by a team made up of a neurologist, a critical care consultant and two nurses – like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman handing over a burglar to the cops.
In happier news, two people have come up to me after the shows to let me know I delivered their babies. One told me she was relieved not to be mentioned in the book, before immediately reversing down that road to tell me she was secretly disappointed. I suggested she should say something hilarious in any future hospital admissions, just to be on the safe side. I don’t know what those lawyers were worried about in the first place.
Bela versus Bradley
Which of us hasn’t told ourselves a few fibs when looking in the mirror – convincing ourselves that the Bela Lugosi staring back at us is more of a Bradley Cooper. We have to – we wouldn’t be able to leave the house otherwise. Donald Trump goes one further, surrounding himself with scores of acolytes to give him a progress report on his – well, what would you call them? Looks? Don’t looks?
Anyway, the orange-faced lunatic-in-chief has just announced that he is frequently compared to Elvis Presley. Presumably we’re talking about the bloated beanbag years towards the end when the jumpsuits have all been stored up in the Graceland loft? The Hippocratic-oath-swearing humanitarian in me struggles to wish Mr Trump an agonising heart attack on his own golden toilet, but I’m more than happy to hope his story ends with a jailhouse rock.
Up the creek without the parachute
Harrowing footage in the news today of a holidaymaker going for a hang-gliding lesson in Switzerland. Harrowing because the pilot forgot to strap the bloke in, so he ends up dangling by his fingertips for a nightmarish two minutes in the sky before it was possible to land. He wasn’t wearing a parachute but, as Theresa May would remind us as she lurches her way to the lectern for yet another speech, no parachute is better than a bad parachute.
“This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor” is published by Picador (£8.99). Adam Kay is touring the UK throughout 2019
This article appears in the 08 Dec 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special