Craic & Codology

Doctor in the House


Goldenbridge Cemetery, Dublin. It’s a sad day for staff of the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary as they say farewell to a former hospital director, Liam Cosgrave. Following the cortege, current master Leo Varadkar chats with Charlie Flanagan.

Varadkar: He was before my time, obviously. But I’m told he was one of the great surgeons.

Flanagan: Yes, my father used to say so anyway. Him and a guy called Richie Ryan. They were a famous double team in the theatre, always cutting things. And this was the 1970s, remember, so they didn’t have anaesthetics back then. The cuts must have been pretty painful sometimes. But Cosgrave was a no-nonsense guy. He had no time for sentiment or screaming. He just got on with the job.

Varadkar: The hospital was smaller then, I presume?

Flanagan: Yes. The bit we call the Right Wing now was the entire thing in those days, just like in Eoin O’Duffy’s time. It was a later master, Garret Fitzgerald, who built the new Left Wing. My Dad would never go anywhere near that.

Varadkar: Ha, ha. He was old school?

Flanagan: Yeah. So was Cosgrave. But times were changing and he didn’t change with them. That’s why he had to retire as master so early.

Varadkar: And never practiced again? What happened? Did he lose a patient?

Flanagan: He lost the entire country, near enough. The so-called ‘Jack Lynch’ virus of 1977. It started in Cork, but turned into a national epidemic. We had no defence against it.

Varadkar: Gosh. Cork – that’s where we’re going on next week’s charity outreach mission.

Flanagan: Yes, so I see. Anyway, poor old Dr Cosgrave. His likes will not be seen again.

The hospital’s A&E department, next day. As a patient suffers cardiac arrest, Dr Varadkar and his team swing into action.

Varadkar (checking monitor, urgently). The patient’s flat-lining! We need a defibrillator here now! (He looks over his right shoulder.) Where’s the nurse?

Katherine Zappone (appearing from his left): I’m right here, doctor. (She clamps defibrillator pads to the patient’s chest and shouts “Clear!” The patient jolts from the shock and opens his eyes. They all look anxiously to the monitor, where the heartbeat returns to normal.)

Varadkar: Good work, Nurse. It’s Ms Zappone, isn’t it? So that’s why everyone calls you “Zapper”?

Zappone (sternly): They do?

Varadkar: (blushing slightly): Sorry, I thought you knew. (Their eyes meet and her frosty exterior melts into a smile)

Zappone: I suppose it’s not the worst thing I could be called.

Varadkar: So what has you over in this part of the hospital? I thought you were mainly located on the Left Wing?

Zappone: Actually I’ve been spending more and more time here on the Right. And I must say, I’m rather enjoying it. It seems to be where the real action is.

Varadkar (in mock whisper): It is. But don’t tell your Lefty friends that. We like to pretend that what they do matters too.

Zappone: So, might there be a permanent career position over here for an ambitious nurse like me?

Varadkar: There might. (He picks up the chart from the end of the revived patient’s bed and reads the name) Mr F.G. Dunne-Leary? Hmm. That gives me an idea for a role for you that might suit. (They walk off down the corridor, deep in conversation).

A mobile clinic in Cork, some days later. Dr Varadkar addresses staff.

Varadkar: Ok, first I want to thank you all for volunteering for this charity mission, which is part of our commitment to Médecins Sans Frontières. I think it’s important, especially for those of us from Dublin, to visit places like Cork occasionally and be reminded that not every is as fortunate as us.

Simon Coveney: Less of the sarcasm, Leo.

Varadkar: But we have job to do here too, which is to inoculate locals against this dangerous little chap. (He points to a screen showing a picture of Micheál Martin). Yes, I know it looks pretty harmless. But believe me, this can do a lot of damage if it goes viral. Our challenge is to nip it in the bud at base, where it incubates.

Frances Fitzgerald: But isn’t it in Dublin, already? (She holds up a newspaper). They’re predicting a major outbreak in the RDS this weekend.

Varadkar: That’s precisely why we’re here, in its native breeding grounds. To use a non-medical term, we’re going to upstage it. Our colleague Dr Donohue has been busy in the laboratory all week, working on a vaccine called the “M20”. This is where it’s going to go. (A wavy red line appears on screen).

Fitzgerald (squinting): What is it?

Paschal Donohoe (looking smug): I call it the Cork-Limerick interconnector. But it’s a major artery, basically.

Varadkar: We’ll be treating the locals for other things too while we’re here, of course. (He glances at Coveney.) Malnourishment, fleas, the effects of centuries of in-breeding, and so on. But the M20 is the main thing, because it reminds this chap (he taps the picture of Martin again) who’s boss. Any questions? (There are no questions.) Ok, people. Let’s go.