This Is Going To Hurt is like no medical drama you’ve ever seen

By Bianca Coleman12 August 2022

This Is Going To Hurt is like no medical drama you’ve ever seen

Some people are going to tell you This Is Going To Hurt is a comedy drama series, or a dark comedy. They’re not entirely wrong; there are funny moments but you’re going to have to accept that they are almost exclusively gallows humour, and as Ben Whishaw – who plays ob/gyn Dr Adam Kay – says, “A lot of the humour is just drawn directly from real-life stuff that happened to Adam. And to a degree, a lot of the jokes are Adam’s way of coping, I suppose, with the pressures of being a doctor.”

Kay scribbled his diaries during his medical training from 2004 to 2010, and as much as it documented the day-to-day cases at the hospital, it’s also a political commentary on the British National Health Service, and how it fails patients and health care workers. This is covered in the series too, for which Kay is an executive producer, but as importantly, This Is Going To Hurt focuses on mental health issues in the medical profession.

To this end, the endless shifts of never-ending emergencies while trying to keep the hospital from literally falling to pieces, portray what doctors are dealing with on a daily basis. In the first episode we see Adam battling exhaustion, emotional and physical, so finely portrayed by Whishaw that you ache for him. How he can continue putting one foot in front of the other beggars belief. And yet this is the reality we cannot comprehend.

Adam’s speciality is obstetrics and gynaecology so the medical cases you see in the series are mostly related to these areas – pregnancy complications, and childbirth. None of it is pretty, and not much is held back. There are lakes of blood, and various other bodily fluids, and if you’ve ever wondered how a caesarean section is carried out, you’ll find your answer here. If you’ve watched medical documentaries, however, you’re already familiar with the brutality of surgery carried out under general anaesthetic; it’s not a pretty sight.

With real-life Kay serving as an executive producer you can feel confident matters are portrayed realistically. The pandemic meant shadowing real doctors was impossible, notes The Guardian. Instead, Ambika Mod – who plays junior doctor Shruti Acharya – “read books and articles, watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, and called friends of friends who are currently junior doctors… Medical details had to be realistic, too. There were three medical advisers on set, while the prosthetics team created convincing components of childbirth, surgery and bloodshed.”

Ambika Mod as Shruti

Time magazine relates, “In the opening scene of This Is Going to Hurt, OB-GYN Adam Kay awakens to a phone call alerting him that he’s late to his shift in the maternity ward. The good, if also alarming, news is that he’s in the parking lot of the London public hospital where he works, having fallen asleep in his car the previous night. Before he can even get into the building, he encounters a woman gasping and moaning outside. She needs an emergency C-section; the baby’s hand, which isn’t exactly supposed to come out first, has already emerged from the birth canal. So he shoves her into a doorless maintenance elevator, dumps her on a gurney speeding towards the delivery room, and, wisecracking all the while, extracts the howling newborn from her womb.”

The wisecracks, by the way, are delivered through the hole in the fourth wall, a device used throughout the series.

This is how it begins, and almost how it ends as well – with a parking lot birth. In between are some funny and tragic cases (sometimes at the same time).

The most outrageous medical cases in This Is Going To Hurt

Episode 1: Adam delivers a premature baby following a missed diagnosis. This infant, his mother and his aunt, are part of a series-long story arc.

Episode 2: A marriage proposal gone wrong involves a children’s plastic egg having to be removed.

Also, in this episode, Adam explains degloving (a traumatic injury that results in the top layers of skin and tissue being torn away from the underlying muscle, connective tissue or bone) to his friends at the dinner table. The body part involved is a penis.

Episode 3: A new mother wants to eat her placenta, but she doesn’t know what to expect, so she eats something else.

Episode 4: Shruti has to deliver triplets, while Adam is banished to A&E where he removes a bottle of (clean) urine destined for a drug test. Later, he delivers a baby from an already-deceased mother.

Episode 5: This episode focuses on the anonymous complaint against Adam, the party for his engagement to Harry, and Shruti not having any “bedside” manner to speak of when consulting pregnant couples.

Episode 6: Adam picks up a shift at a VIPrivate maternity hospital, but when something goes wrong there, it’s the NHS they have to turn to, where Shruti is calmly and efficiently stepping up to being a competent and confident doctor. A new intern faints at the sight of blood. Right into an open C-section. You have to admit, that is quite funny. Probably one of the lightest moments in the whole series, which says a lot.

Episode 7: Adam has under five minutes to save a baby whose head has emerged but the body is stuck, preventing oxygen to the brain.

This Is Going To Hurt has been renewed for a second season. It’s not always the easiest viewing, as the book wasn’t the easiest to read, especially right at the end, when it made me cry. But it is superb television.

Fun fact: Author and show executive producer Adam Kay makes a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo near the beginning of episode four, as a cyclist.

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