I have a story to tell, and if you follow me to the end of this book, you will understand why I have decided to write it down. It is a story that exposes many personal intimacies, from my financial struggles as a young doctor, to my time as the personal dermatologist to one of the most recognised faces in the universe, Michael Jackson. It is the story of how I got to know the singer as a friend and witnessed the personal agonies he suffered during the treatment of his vitiligo, of watching him cry as he took off his wig and showed me his scarred scalp. It is the story of how I smuggled cars to Turkey to finance my college studies and how I had to have a piece cut out of my leg to debride an HIV needle-stick from a Dublin heroin addict, in the days before there was any treatment for AIDS. However, it is also a story of overcoming adversity, to pioneering a whole new field of medicine, of winning many international awards and being voted ‘Top Aesthetic Physician in the World’ by my peers in the Bellagio, Las Vegas.
This story begins with my childhood in Garrison, a small village in rural County Fermanagh. In the early pages, I nearly lose my life in Northern Ireland’s ethno-political conflict, and I witness the death of our bread delivery man, Jack McClenaghan, one spring day in May 1979. Retired from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), he was out making deliveries when the IRA motorcyclists fired their bullets. His next stop would have been our house. From my earliest childhood, I dreamt of travel and adventure, of living amongst the Marsh Arabs that Wilfred Thesiger wrote about, of experiencing the thrill of flying with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, like on the TV series from Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia. If life is about living out your childhood dreams, then I have long since achieved that ambition, lived those adventures. I will tell you how I was captured by Saddam Hussein’s army near the town of Halabja, while working as a doctor in Iraq.
As my story unfolds, you will see how my parents were influential in determining my decisions. My mother instilled in me a passion for education. She was determined that her children would all go to university and encouraged me to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. My father, meanwhile, had a gift for making me believe in myself. He had a variety of passions, including local history, and together we would spend our Sundays exploring the megalithic tombs in the West Fermanagh area. In those historic places, if we listened closely to the wind, we could almost hear the spirits of our ancestors and the heartbeats of the generations of people who came before us. He showed me places where teachers had once run Catholic hedge schools, trying to hide from the ever-watching British Armies. You will understand my gratitude to him when I tell you about the night, he cut down the expensive billboard outside our garage and used it to build some soundproof boxes that I needed for my research but couldn’t afford to buy. They helped me win both the British Amateur Young Scientist of the Year title and the Irish Aer Lingus Biochemist of the Year title. I treasured these memories and later recounted them to Michael Jackson after he told me of his hugely different childhood.
Determined to become a doctor, I recall having to raise money for medical school after Margaret Thatcher stopped my grant. After qualifying, while working in a hospital in Dublin in 1987, disaster struck: a needle, which I had used to draw blood from a patient with HIV, accidently jabbed me in the leg. Overwhelmed by the emotions this incident stirred up, I emigrated to New Zealand, and then started a peripatetic existence, working as a doctor in Baghdad, California, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. Thankfully, I never caught the disease. On returning to Dublin, I set up the Ailesbury Clinic, championing treatments such as the novel use of lasers, dermal fillers, and botulinum toxin. This new field of medicine gave me the opportunity for research for which I won many awards over the years.
Central to the early part of this memoir is my personal journey: my efforts to escape the Troubles, cope with the fear that I might have contracted HIV, try to get over my lost love and later to detail some of the pioneering research for which I have won many international awards over the past few years. As you read it, we will stand together at the Berlin Wall on the night it falls, and in Moscow on the night the Soviet Union ends. You will visit Iraq where I was arrested as a spy while documenting the gassing of the Kurds. We will see how I helped pioneer a whole new field of medicine from a small room in an apartment in Dublin and how the rich and famous eventually came to get treatment in those small rooms. You will read how cosmetic medicine developed into its own specialty and how, within ten years, I was invited to lecture to doctors worldwide, mainly about techniques that were started in Dublin. These included treating HIV lipodystrophy patients with facial implants, treating migraine with botulinum toxin, using a patient’s own platelets and growth factors to try and make them look younger. Later, you will hear how I scaled up our clinic worldwide, only to have to close some of them again as we faced the terrible Irish recession.
As Ben Franklin said, ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity,’ and I wrote this book largely as a means of filling the time that the recession and the lockdown created for me. It has also been cathartic, cleansing my mind of some memories that had remained with me. This is the story of my personal journey, of surviving life, of how I got to where I am.
(c) Dr. Patrick Treacy
About The Needle and the Damage Done:
The Needle and the Damage Done is the story of a boy from a small Irish village who became an adventurer, multi\-award\-winning doctor and physician to the stars. Part travelogue, part thriller, part celebrity tell\-all, the memoir is a whirlwind of adventure and a fascinating insight into the colourful life of Dr Patrick Treacy. Cosmetic doctor Patrick Treacy grew up in rural Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Determined to become a doctor, he raised money for medical school in Dublin by smuggling cars from Germany to Turkey. He studied biochemistry at Queens University Belfast and medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons. While working in a Dublin hospital, he was accidentally jabbed with a needle from an HIV patient. He took blood test after blood test for many years until he was confirmed negative. Initially overwhelmed by the experience, he moved to New Zealand, away from everyone who knew what he was going through: his girlfriend and his colleagues.
Thus, he began a peripatetic existence, working as a doctor around the world. In Saddam Husseins Baghdad, Treacy was arrested and imprisoned, spending days wondering whether he was going to be hanged as a spy. He worked as a ships surgeon in California and with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia. On returning to Dublin, Treacy set up the Ailesbury Clinic where he pioneered the emergent field of cosmetic dermatology, championing treatments regarding the use of botulinum toxin and dermal fillers. His award\-winning research brought him numerous international accolades and many celebrity patients, including the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, who came flocking to his door. Central to this memoir is Treacys personal journey: his efforts to escape the conflict of The Troubles, coping with the fear that he may have contracted HIV, getting over his lost love and surviving the crippling Irish recession. Most of all, it gives us a fascinating insight into his award\-winning research on the influence of Botox ® on the brain and how he developed protocols to reverse the damage being done to patients faces as a result of the complications of dermal fillers.
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