Series 1 - Episode 1 Emergency



A neurosurgeon is probing the glossy tissue around a teenager’s spine. “All those little blood vessels are feeding the spinal cord. We don’t want to injure them.” No, we really don’t. But the risk of paralysing your patient is one that doctors at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital neurosurgery department run routinely.

It’s remarkable work, and like all the best hospital documentaries, it makes for hugely involving viewing. The stakes are high: a husband waits to see if his wife will emerge from a coma after a car crash and talks about how they first met. A mother of two is admitted having collapsed suddenly, and learns she has an “enormous” brain tumour.

Big life-or-death emotions mingle with the fascinating nuts and bolts of the medical procedures – and tiny, well observed details, like the way a young registrar on the phone deftly spins a biro on his thumb.


Documentary filmed over nine months following the work of doctors in the neurosurgery department of Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital as they carry out high-risk operations on the most complex, delicate and important organ. The first episode features a midwife who is in a coma after suffering massive head injuries in a car crash, and a man struck down by a mysterious virus that has rendered him unconscious and unable to breathe by himself. Also, paediatric neurosurgeon Jay Jayamohan is called in to operate on a 14-year-old boy who has a dangerous build-up of fluid on his brain.