My Toughest Case: Dr Phil Hammond

‘The baby was 32 weeks and not breathing. I’d done six intubations, but never on my own’

Early in my medical career, between stitching my glove onto the top of a man’s head and watching my spectacles fall into an open wound, I realised a career in surgery probably wasn’t for me. So I joined a GP training scheme. But to get there, I still had to do two years of hospital jobs, starting with the most inappropriate one imaginable; six months on a special care baby unit.

It was the toughest time of my life, trying to put drips, drains, tubes and catheters in the tiniest babies. Luckily, the nurses saw me coming and when it was quiet, we’d swap roles. They’d do all the high-tech fiddly stuff and I’d fetch the HobNobs. But when it was busy, I’d be called into action. In 1988, the training mantra was “see one, do one, teach one”. As one consultant advised: “If you’re not sure what you’re doing, put on a mask of relaxed brilliance.” But no mask can calm a premature birth and the dash to special care.

The baby was 32 weeks and not breathing. The unit sister was busy with another baby. I’d done six successful intubations (passing a tube into the trachea to allow ventilation) but never on my own. I chose a tube, picked up the laryngoscope and prayed my glasses would stay on long enough to see the vocal cords. I eased the tube in and fate directed it to the correct hole. As the tiny lungs inflated, the mother placed some amethyst next to her baby “for the healing energy”.

This baby was in limbo for weeks, unable to come off the ventilator but hanging in there. I’d take blood and fiddle with the ventilator, willing him to thrive with science, while the mother brought in healing beads, horse’s hair, homeopathic creams. Nothing worked. Then one morning, she stuck a picture of the Pope on the incubator and went for a coffee.

Sleep deprivation does odd things to the mind. I decided to fashion the Pope a Jimmy Savile wig out of a yellow X-ray form. Sister spotted it as the mother returned, whipped it off and turned it upside down. “What’s that?” asks the mother. “It’s Dr Phil’s lucky horseshoe. He made it especially.” From that moment, her baby picks up. In a week, he’s off the ventilator. The parents want to name the baby after me and I’m given a huge box of chocolates. I give them to sister, obviously. Baby Phil may have escaped special care, but I’ve still got five months to survive.

Phil Hammond is a GP and comedian. Blogs, books, dvds and tour dates at Drphilhammond.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

    £8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

    Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

    £55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

    Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

    Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines