Adam Kay: Christmas Working For The NHS? It Hurts!

Former doctor, and author of This Is Going To Hurt, Adam Kay reveals ten truths about working for the NHS over Christmas.

Adam Kay

by Adam Kay |

One. People get horny in the weirdest way. Blame the eggnog or just high Christmas spirits, but sex always gets freakier at this time of year. One patient got some nasty grazes after using sweet wrappers as an emergency contraceptive – after all, everyone knows a Twix fits – and another gave herself what I called ‘vaginaphylactic shock’ by using peanut butter as lube. ‘I thought I was only allergic to it “up there”,’ she said. Nope, this allergy had full coverage.

Two. People are always inserting strange objects into themselves, but at Christmas it gets very specifically seasonal. I’ve extracted a full set of tree lights, like the world’s weirdest magician, and puzzled for hours over a woman suffering from thrush that was green, red, and... minty. Yep, she’d used a candy cane as a dildo.

Three. Fancy dress can be dangerous too. One year a guy collapsed from dehydration after trussing himself up in foil to cosplay as a roast turkey. Another wanted to try being an Egyptian mummy – not strictly for fancy dress, to be honest – swaddling himself tight in gaffer tape which, upon removal, gave him an express, anaesthetic- free circumcision...

Four. ’Tis the season to dump Granny. It’s not uncommon for elderly relatives to be ditched at the hospital’s front door so the rest of the family can enjoy their buck’s fizz and pigs-in-blankets unburdened – it’s known as ‘granny dumping’ and is truly horrifying every time.

Five. Christmas baby names never disappoint. One Christmas, I delivered a Holly and a Caspar (he was one of the three kings; I didn’t know either) and you still get the odd Robin, Grace or Gabriel. Carols and Glorias have fallen out of favour though. As one veteran midwife put it: ‘Noel used to be very popular. But Edmonds fucked that.’

Six. Forget Christmas dinner if you’re working. The best I managed was stolen toast from the ward kitchen, with a side order of Quality Street no one else wanted.

Seven. Christmas traditions are hard to break. One patient knew she couldn’t eat Sharon fruit, yet ruined five Christmases having them cleared from her intestine, because it was a family tradition to eat them. ‘It wouldn’t be Christmas without it,’ she said. Did she mean the fruit or the annual surgery?

Eight. Death never takes a holiday. Once I was breaking the news to relatives that Granny wouldn’t make Christmas dinner that year when I accidentally hit a button on my very festive musical tie. They laughed, until they remembered about Granny, anyway.

Nine. Christmas spirit can be thin on the ground. When a nurse offered to go miles out of her way to drive a patient home in time for Christmas, I had a warm feeling. ‘Fine,’ spat the patient, ‘but don’t expect petrol money.’

Ten. But we still manage to have a ball. We all get festive in our own way, whether it’s awful Christmas jumpers, carving a turkey with surgical instruments or decking the staff room with bespoke decorations. My masterpiece? A wreath made from out-of- date condoms – the miracle of birth (control).

Adam’s new book ‘Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas’ is out now (£9.99, Picador)

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