Tough love with Doc Grumpy

By Ned Egan

Well, a little tale about doctors. You know, those selfless fellas and gals who spend their lives slaving away in the interests of their flock {us, allegedly} – spending even more time worrying and panicking about our treasured health than would have the loving and caring J Stalin or A Hitler.

I was unfortunate enough to be blown sky-high by explosives over fifty years ago. I had a wonderful eye doctor, and a great plastic surgeon. These people delivered me back to life outside the Royal Perth Hospital in much better shape than I’d entered nearly a year before – being then blind and deaf and missing a fair amount of bodywork – never mind the paint.

Anyway, since then I’ve encountered my share of medical charlatans, quacks, and deceitful latchicoes’. Suffice it to say that on looking back over sixteen subsequent operations, I’d have to give the ‘knife-boys’ credit for being even more dangerous than dynamite.

However, that’s a story for another time.

This present tale is about a lady doc, whose PR and diplomacy skills were amazingly conspicuous – by their total absence! Now, to how I met her, and what transpired.

As well as many dyn/doc inflicted injuries, I was, a good while ago, informed I had COPD. That little acronym is a short way of saying ‘Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.’ A fair oul mouthful, that, bejay… Normally this malady attacks heavy smokers – I never smoked a puff. But I had TB as a child, and was cooped up in tanks, armoured cars and aircraft crash rescue vehicles for eight years, mostly in the Middle East. And in those days – the ‘50’s – the huge majority of military men smoked. Lots. At one shilling for twenty, they were practically encouraged to. So, on long stand-by shifts, I got all their recycled stuff, second-hand – third and fourth too. Everybody’s breath was sucked in and blown out by everybody else; maybe a dozen – or a hundred times. Charming…

Then, last winter, I got a lousy dose of flu. The sinuses also being ‘battle-damaged’ – the Mr Flu had some dinky fun with my ageing {and fairly out-of-date!} respiratory system. Lying in my ‘pit,’ I was getting through 150 sheets of kitchen towel a night. After three days, I crawled down to the computer, and tapped in ‘COPD’ and ‘flu.’ That little electronic nurse barked: “Avoid coffin – go direct to a real-deal doc – flu with COPD can stitch and stuff u up in sad snuff-it saga!” She frit me, did little electronic nursie.

Seanie C, a great friend, conveyed me to the lair of the only available late-night physician, Care-Doc. In I go. The Spartan waiting area was being superbly heated – up to the very highest Polar bear standard.

Very soon a gruff roared ‘come in’ – and I’m there: a fine, big woman. No small talk, just ‘siddown there, boy’ – indicating a hard- backed chair.

The doc thunders round the corner of her desk at me – a bit like Keano in pursuit of Dunphy. “What’s wrong with ya? No sob stories, I say! I hope you’re not wasting my time?! Arya? D’ya know I have sick people waiting on me? – Well – what’s up with you, ay? Speak up!” Lucky enough I was used to such direct verbals from Army days – so I managed to get out my tale of woe – which I certainly didn’t exaggerate! “Have you been boozing it up lately, boy – don’t lie to me! – Been gobbling fat bacon – guzzling pills or drugs? No women I hope at your age?!! Has the cat got yer tongue? Anything else? Come on! Out with it!” All! Now!” Cripes, I got all the answers out, quick fast!

Then the storm subsided a bit; she sat down, calmed down a fraction, and produced a sheet of paper. “So, you’re immune to most antibiotics, aya?! Well, I’m going to name several – stop me when you hear one you haven’t been on! Don’t act the shy eejit, mind!” So, she started rattling them off, like a fast old steam train whacking through points and past level-crossing gates. After several names had flashed into my useless hearing aid – I copped one I’d never heard of – G*******N. “That one” I gasp. “That’s been out several years boy – ya must have tried that!” For my own safety I didn’t tell her I’d given up on quacks after about thirty years. She growled and showed her teeth a few times. “Anything else wrong with ya?” she suddenly roared. I told her of a horrible long-term problem – a legacy of a botched op in a Military hospital in Heidelburg – a rotten smell and taste in my mouth all the time, night and day. “What kind of taste, ay, boy?” “Well, doctor, rather like cat’s excrement, sort of,” I told her, lamely enough. “Christ – and how would you recognise the taste of cat’s sh*tes?” she demanded – but for the first time there was a hint of a grin on those fearsome chops… And I suddenly realised that in spite of her yelling – she’d listened intently to every single thing I’d said.

“Right, trousers down, lie on your face” she snapped, and gave me a shot of the old needle in the bum. Then a prescription for the medicine, and an abrupt “on yer way, now, lad.”

But when I was going out the door, she caught my arm and pulled me back; “Here’s my mobile number – call me anytime you’re in trouble, Egan – day or night. Do it! Good luck.”

The flu cleared up in a day. And the ‘cat’s s*** taste and smell was gone a few days later – and hasn’t returned. For the first time in many years I’m free of the dreaded stink.

I think of Ms Doc Grumpy with great affection. She reminded me of the man who got my sight back, all those years ago, Dr R Linton. He didn’t take prisoners either.

It’s nice to think that amongst all the greedy pretentious medical frauds extant, there’s always the odd gem.

I haven’t been back to thank Ms Grumpy. She’d tear my head off for wasting her time!

But if the ‘cat’s malackie’ filth ever comes back to render my nights horrible, I’ll run to her.

And get out my thanks!! If allowed…

Ned E



The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.


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