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Embarrassing Bodies 100th Episode Q&As

CorporatePortal

Embarrassing Bodies is 100 Episodes old on Monday 25th February (9pm, Channel 4). That’s a LOT of latex gloves, people. To mark the occasion, we asked the good doctors to look back over the previous 99 shows, for their favourite and most memorable moments.

Dr Dawn Harper

Did you ever think you’d get to 100 episodes, when the show first started?

Absolutely not! In fact I seem to remember we knew it was fairly ground breaking telly and people were anxious as to how it might be received. So much so that I think the channel had a contingency plan so that if it was badly received after the first episode, they could pull it and air something else!

What was your favourite of the 100 episodes?

I have lots of favourites! I love doing EB: Live From The Clinic - series two was particularly fun working from the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham. I loved EB Kids and Fat Bodies but I'm in danger of just listing every episode now! They have all been so good to work on. Some of my real favourites are the revisit shows. Working in the NHS, I only seem to see people when they are no better. We don't have the luxury of being able to see people just to check they are better. There simply isn't the time, so seeing people come back feeling so much better is just great. Probably the most striking thing for me is not the cure of the physical problem but the impact it has had on the individual’s emotional well-being.

What have been your most memorable cases?

There have been so many. Charlotte’s story I think stands out in everyone’s mind.

What have been the genuinely stand-out moments?

Walking up Camden High Street in a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the words "FEEL MY BALLS", carrying some artificial testicles was a moment not to be forgotten. Only equalled when the programme aired and my teenage son asked for said shirt!

You’ve seen most things – has there been anything in these progs that’s made you take a backwards step?

Up until this summer I would have said no, but we were filming a stunt on tattoos in Weymouth this summer and I saw a chap with a problem with his testicles. Nothing particularly memorable about that but he came back to the pod an hour later having had the EB logo tattooed on his arm!

Do you ever get cases where you haven’t got a clue what to do?

No. The cases Christian, Pixie and I see on the show are the same as the cases every GP sees up and down the country every day of the week. It’s just that we have TV cameras in our consultations. Just like any other doctor, we don't always know the answer straight away but we do know what tests we want to do or who we would like to refer to.

What do you think the show has done, in terms of public service and improving the nation’s health?

I am enormously proud of EB and I have no doubt that it has done amazing things for improving the health of the nation. I see my own patients, some of whom I have known for years, presenting with problems shown on EB because the show has told them that there are things that can be done. It's like EB gives them the green light to talk about problems. My NHS GP colleagues sometimes moan about how many appointments they think are made based on the back of the show but I'm never going to apologise for that! Just recently one local GP reckoned he saw at least 40 patients a week coming in because of the show when EB is on. Long may it last!

Dr Christian Jessen

Did you ever think you’d get to 100 episodes, when the show first started?

No way – when we made the first series, I couldn’t think why anyone would want to look at verrucas and piles! A lot of GP work is quite dull and I wasn’t sure the interest would be there. How wrong could I be? We saw amazing cases from the beginning and had a great response. I’m glad to be wrong!

What was your favourite of the 100 episodes?

Can I cheat and have four? It would be the Embarrassing Teen Bodies series – I couldn’t pick one of them... it was so much fun and the contributors were incredible. We filmed at concerts and on campsites and had a great time. For me it was what great telly is all about – entertaining and educational.

What have been your most memorable cases?

I’d have to say Charlotte, who came in with the most horrendous verrucas. Her case goes some way to answering the million dollar question: “Why would someone who’s too embarrassed to go to the doctor appear on Embarrassing Bodies?”... She had seen her GP and various specialists, but sometimes you can be blinded by what’s in front of you and need a fresh pair of eyes. In this case, we discovered that she had never had her immune system tested – and that one test led to her having the bone marrow transplant that saved her life.

Recently, my most memorable patient has been Patience who was a contributor on Embarrassing Fat Bodies. She caused an unbelievable stir on Twitter when the show went out. It was a real battle to persuade her to take responsibility for her weight and I thought I was going to lose. In the end she realised that it was her last chance – it was a very poignant moment and I got very upset for her. She’s now in “lockdown” – in hospital on a liquid diet, and I can’t wait to see how she gets on. She’s an amazing woman.

What have been the genuinely stand-out moments?

In the early days, I remember sitting in the audience at the BAFTAs – the next minute, we were on stage accepting our first award. That was a real wow moment – it felt unreal that we’d come so far. There are so many opportunities with Embarrassing Bodies, so many programmes we’d still love to make. The show has been a big hit in Australia – I’d love to make a series there – I mean, come on: Embarrassing Bodies Delves Down Under – the scope is endless!

You’ve seen most things – has there been anything in these progs that’s made you take a backwards step?

When I met Charlotte for the first time, you can see me visibly react. At the other end of the spectrum, the reaction we get from the crowds at truck stops is fantastic – and going to T4 On The Beach was another great moment. For the viewers, a lot of the cases are “OMG” but for us, it’s what we do – just an extreme version. Oh, and watching Dawn smear her poo on a bit of cardboard was a highlight – the things we do... but the fact that we can is amazing!

Do you ever get cases where you haven’t got a clue what to do?

I’ve had cases where the diagnosis is incredibly rare or really unexpected but you always have a starting point. That comes with experience and we’re learning all the time.

What do you think the show has done, in terms of public service and improving the nation’s health?

The single most important thing that the show has done is to get people talking about their health. I hope we’ve helped people communicate with their doctor, and that they can see that there’s always something to be done. I’m really proud of EB Live – Skype diagnosis is an incredible tool for doctors and patients. After one episode of EB Live when we did a segment on breast cancer, I was contacted by a radiologist who said that as a direct result of the programme she saw five women and three of those cases turned out to be cancer. That alone makes EB worthwhile for me.

Dr Pixie McKenna

Did you ever think you’d get to 100 episodes, when the show first started?

To be honest I thought EB would herald the start and the end of my TV career. I genuinely thought we would be put off air for showing piles before the watershed!

What was your favourite of the 100 episodes?

I just loved Teen Bodies. I was initially dreading it because I thought it would be dominated by attitude and angst but the reality was we met some amazing teens with some amazing stories to tell about their bodily struggles. It was a real eye opener and there were no Kevin and Perry types - the contributors were a dream!

What have been your most memorable cases?

Without a doubt one of my all time favourites was Maria from Wales who had a pair of testicles growing on her scalp - her description, not mine. She had two sebaceous cysts which had been there for years and yes, at first glance they really did resemble a man’s anatomy. She took it all in her stride, had them removed and hasn’t looked back since. She made me laugh so much as she was such a character – I’m even laughing now at the thought of it.

You’ve seen most things – has there been anything in these progs that’s made you take a backwards step?

Yes! Carol, a lovely lady who gave herself twice daily enemas of Nescafé to aid her irritable bowel syndrome - the mind boggles!

Do you ever get cases where you haven’t got a clue what to do?

Yes and what I do is send the patient to the loo to do a specimen of urine, google the answer and pretend to be all knowledgeable on their return. It’s a trick of the trade for when you are clueless, taught to me by a colleague when I was a junior doctor!

What do you think the show has done, in terms of public service and improving the nation’s health?

The fact that the show gets people talking about taboo health issues has done wonders. There is a real buzz around EB and the beauty of it is that viewers are picking up little health bites by osmosis as they watch. It is also used as an opening gambit when people go to their GP - they say "I saw X on EB and think I might have it. It somehow makes it more acceptable to talk about it!

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