What I did today… Mr Cathal O’Donnell, Emergency medicine

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‘In emergency medicine, you never know what’ll hit you. Anything can come at you on any given day, and every day is different, though weekend work seems to be largely made up of cases involving drug overdoses or alcohol abuse, mainly alcohol.

“The people involved can be as young as 14 or they can be quite elderly — I had a man in recently who was in his eighties and had fallen down on the way home from the pub and hit his head after drinking.

“There is an increasing amount of alcohol-related attendances, however, and the age is getting younger. Ten years ago we used to dread Leaving Certificate results night — now it is the Junior Cert results night we dread the most.

“We have an endless parade of 14 to 16-year-old children who are quite simply unconscious with alcohol; unable to walk or talk.

“I was on call over the weekend and I saw a young male in his twenties who was brought in after taking a significant overdose of a mix of tablets including paracetamol, antidepressants, antibiotics and alcohol.

“We were immediately concerned with the amount of paracetamol he had taken in excessive quantities, paracetamol can seriously damage the liver.

“Luckily for him his family members had brought him in quickly and we were able to give him the antidote in time and he didn’t suffer any liver damage. Once we had dealt with the medical issues, we passed the case on to the psychiatric services.

“I also saw a man in his forties who had drunk a huge amount of alcohol and got into a fight in a bar and received a number of nasty wounds to his head, face and back.

The wounds required suturing and we observed him overnight because of the head injury and the alcohol. The combination of alcohol and head injury can be dangerous because alcohol abuse mimics the effects of a head injury. The next morning he was fine.

“One thing that has improved in recent years is drink driving — we are seeing less of that in the last few years.

“However, in the event of someone having a heart attack, the majority of Irish people do not know how to do CPR.

“It is very simple and it could save somebody’s life. I feel it is something people should think about learning how to do.”

Mr Cathal O’Donnell Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Mid Western Regional Hospital Limerick


Source: The Irish Independent, 06/09/10
Journalist: Ailin Quinlan