PS.

04 / 06 / 22

In conversation with Dominic O’Hooley.

A candid conversation with Dr Dominic O'Hooley. Scroll down to watch the video.

At the ADI Congress, on 28th May 2022, I had the privilege to capture a candid conversation with Dr Dominic O’Hooley.

Dom is one of the brightest and most misunderstood individuals I have encountered in dentistry. This conversation covers work, life, highs, lows, a near-death experience and lots of wisdom.

The depth and openness of this conversation made me emotional at times, and I had to hold back my tears.

Prav Solanki:
Are you ready?

Cameraman:
Just a minute.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Speaker 1:
Okay. Yeah. Rolling.

Prav Solanki:
So Dom, we’re just going to have a candid conversation.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Okay.

Prav Solanki:
So just introduce yourself, tell us what you do, where you work, and we’ll just take the conversation wherever it goes.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Great. Well, I’m Dominic O’Hooley. I’m a Yorkshire pudding. I’ve been qualified in Liverpool in 1993 as a dentist by the… well, not by the skin of my teeth, but I was quite well known among the student population as being a bit of a lairy individual, let’s put it that way. Since then, I’ve done a variety of things in my dental career. I was a hospital dentist first, a house officer, and then I went into an NHS practice in Pudsey. And they told me that the ducks flyed backwards there, and I thought, well, that’ll suit me. So I went in there, got my early NHS wings, and then when Boots decided they were going to go into dentistry, I thought, “Hmm, that sounds interesting.”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And one of the things that interested me about it was they said, “Right, we’re going private, it’s private dentistry. It’s a very high quality offering. We’re going to offer a lot of training to our dentists and dental care professionals, but what we’re also going to do is we’re just going to offer you salaries. You’re not going to be earning-”

Prav Solanki:
Fee per item.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“… fee per item. We’re going salaried. And the salaries we’re offering, they’re not that high. However, there’s a lot of other things that are going to provide you with a grounding in your career.” So I thought, “Oh, that sounds interesting.” And I thought I’ve never been massively money-driven, so I thought I’m going to do that. And it was a-

Prav Solanki:
How old were you then?

Dominic O’Hooley:
28, 27, 28 at the time. Yeah. So I did that and I started off as the boy within the Leeds practice. And they already had some, a hierarchy in there among the dentists that there was a dental business manager, couple of senior dentists and then there was me. And over time, things changed and I sort of developed an understanding that I’m absolutely fairly good at… well, I thought I was at the time, fairly good at business strategizing and analysing and working out ways to appeal and grow businesses. So I thought at the time when I was quite a young guy, I was full of confidence, and that’s confidence within an arrogance. And I ended up as the dental business manager there, and we became the most popular Boots practice. So we were the most lucrative, including the London ones, and later became like their sort of shining stare.

Prav Solanki:
So you became the dental business guy in this Boots, it became the most successful Boots practice out of all of them. What did you do?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, it was interesting what I did, because I’d like to use the phrase, I was a Trumpian disruptor, so I didn’t have orange air and sort of fake tan on, but I sort of semi-alienated some of the regular Boots, the chemist staff, but at the same time, didn’t completely alienate him. So they thought who’s this bolshie guy who’s in this dental practice that they’ve positioned in the worst part of the Leeds store? So your Leeds dental practice was positioned roughly where you’d imagine maybe the disabled toilet might be on the first floor. It was right out of the way.

Prav Solanki:
Tucked away.

Dominic O’Hooley:
They obviously had a few square footage that they weren’t using for much and they thought, “We’ll put the dental practice there.” And so what happened is people who were coming into the store, there was no cross-selling going on. They were coming in, buying the stuff. I actually did an informal mystery shopper thing with them, and I’d walk around the store and say, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? Did you know there’s a dental practice in here?” No. And what was really interesting was most of the staff didn’t know.

Prav Solanki:
Wow.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I’m not joking.

Prav Solanki:
Wow.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So over a period of time, Keith, the general manager of the store, and me became not buddies, I’d say, but we got a bit of an understanding. I think he realised that I wasn’t a bad lad, I was really a bit young, a bit rough, and what I was trying to do, I was trying to actually make the business a success. And I was trying to do that for the right reasons.

Prav Solanki:
I guess you were just questioning the norm, right? You’re just like-

Dominic O’Hooley:
A bit.

Prav Solanki:
The people say, “Oh, well we do that because we’ve always done it that way,” and you’re sat there scratching your head, thinking, “Why the fuck does nobody know there’s a dental practise in here?”

Dominic O’Hooley:
Absolutely. So I cultivated the person who puts the inside signage in the Boots. So I cultivated her, and so I managed to get some dental signage. And it was all sorts of stuff, like dental practise with footsteps going towards it through the main thoroughfare. So where you got your most football coming in the store, I got that done. I managed to get a window. I didn’t get it all the time, but I got a window on an external-facing part of the building on the ground floor, and I got my signage put in it. And we agreed a deal, so it was like, you can have your signage in it but then when it comes to my marketing time, it comes out. And I said, “Fair play.” But when I got the signage in, I was able to track new patient numbers and it were doing that. And it showed me that in this particular site, at that time, actually having a visible signage that there was a dentist in that store made a big difference.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And that slightly surprised me because I thought, “Something as simple as a poster.” It were working in this case and that. So, all right, so it sounds like a real good story, it’s almost like a fairy tale story, but then Boots management changed and it got their chief executive, who was the new guy, came in and he wasn’t sure about the fact that Boots had spread its wings and gone away from the core offering of being a chemist and the pharmacist for people and every high street would have a Boots, had gone into dentistry, had gone into beauty therapy, had done all these other things, and he wasn’t convinced by it. And the funny thing is, I think he was probably right, probably. I think they’d gone a bit early and they’d gone a bit… So Boots ended up looking for a buyer, and what happened is they ended up offloading the business to a Scottish optician company called Optical Express.

Prav Solanki:
All right.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And by this time, because the Boots dental practises had stagnated a little bit, they’d moved away from the salaries as well. So we’d gone to the traditional fee per item model. And what was really interesting was, one of the reasons that practises generally in Boots had stagnated is because they weren’t seeing a year-on-year increase in productivity from their dentists and dental care professionals. Quite frighteningly, the minute they went fee per item, I think it went up about 70%. That’s a double edged sword for you.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah. Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And I always thought, “Well, what was the reason for that? Was that the reason because originally the self-selected dentists and dental care professionals who were actually not money driven, a bit like myself at the time? And who weren’t really… it didn’t [inaudible 00:07:54] and the normal things that would drive somebody to, oh, I’ve got to earn my money, I need to buy a new car, all the rest of it. It wasn’t stimulating them, but I was proved wrong because the minute they went fee per item-

Prav Solanki:
Boom.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… and they saw the salaries go up, boom. So that’s human nature for you-

Prav Solanki:
Of course, it is.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… in a nutshell. So anyway, I don’t want to go on all day about this, but then the Optical Express were looking quite carefully at the Boots business, and they identified that this ugly-looking oaf up in Leeds who’d done well in the Boots practise, and I got escalated up the promotional ladder again to the clinical director of the Optical Express dentist, which was they’d took the Boots practises and they’d put them into Optical Express sites, they’d reduced the number and consolidated them down to 35. So for six years then, I ran 35 dental practises.

Prav Solanki:
Was that when they added a massive marketing campaign pushing veneers?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. All sorts.

Prav Solanki:
Also, I remember seeing a huge online presence for Optical Express, but they were pushing that, I can’t even remember what the brand was called, was it under Optical or was there another brand that it operated under?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, there was an Optical Express, and then there was Optical Express Dentists and it never chipped off the tongue in it. And it was The Dental Clinic, was their brand. So The Dental Clinic.

Prav Solanki:
I remember now.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And it was all in the Optical Express blue. And then they had this thing called the wood team, which was their team of internally-employed shop fitters, who’d go in and shop fit it. And they’d do an amazing job for the amount of money they were able to do it at. And they’d end up with this moving all the Boots Castellini units out of these amazingly expensive Boots dental practises, which were all the curved walls and stuff, and basically slamming them into these-

Prav Solanki:
Boxes.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… existing optic sites. So you’d move from a beautiful surgery, beautiful surgery, all the calming lighting and all the rest of it, to basically a cubbyhole with the same chair, but very different.

Prav Solanki:
Restricted.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And unfortunately, with this cost-saving mentality that was going on, they wanted to expand job roles. And one of the job roles they wanted to expand is they wanted to get rid of cleaners and they wanted the dental nurses to do the cleaning, which wasn’t in their job description when they were a Boots dentist, you see. So it didn’t go well.

Prav Solanki:
So where did your career take you after that, Dom? What happened? What was your exit out of that and into-

Dominic O’Hooley:
A very difficult exit, very difficult indeed. Over the period of six years I was there, we reduced the number of dental clinics down from 35 to nearly 10. It became the case that I had to go around with the business manager, and we used to spend the day going to practises to close them and tell the staff. And it was awful.

Prav Solanki:
Were you delivering the news?

Dominic O’Hooley:
I was. And it was awful. And we actually, this’ll sound awful, this’ll be a controversial thing I’m going to say now, but me and him actually were in touch via, we had BlackBerrys at the time, and we used to call each other and we’d do two sites at the same time, he’d give the news in one, I’d give it in the other. And we used to call each other, Grim Reaper One to Grim Reaper Two. And it wasn’t… You may think, “Oh God, that sounds incredibly off, that’s so cynical.” And it isn’t, we were using black humour to try and keep our heads together, because it was awful.

Prav Solanki:
And that was the reality, right? It was nothing you could do.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It were awful. We were grim reapers. We were going in there as grim reapers and we were sitting everybody down and giving them the hard word, and it was awful. And I thought, at the time I thought, I’m doing it, but I think it’s affected me and I think it’s affected me forever, ever since. When I think back to it, I’m not quite… I found it difficult to spend time in my mind on that time, because for various reasons, it was a very bad time.

Prav Solanki:
Dom, do you know, the only way I can relate to what you’re saying there is firing someone, right, and that doesn’t even seem close to what you’re describing there. But when I do have to do that, I play the conversation over in my mind, I think about it before I go to bed, I have the conversation in my own head with the person several times before I do it. And then it all comes out completely differently on the day.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Always.

Prav Solanki:
But it’s occupying, it occupies your mind nonstop until you do it. But you weren’t just doing this once, it was one after another after another.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, yeah, honestly it was really awful. And the variety of responses you’d get, and for me, the worst responses of all were the people who’d come and try and comfort you and say, “It isn’t your fault.” I’d feel even worse. I’d almost want them to actually be really angry with me, tell me to eff off, you’re just a whatever. I’d almost think you’re honest… whatever you do, don’t try and make me feel better because I’ve no right for you to do that. I’m this big boy, the big cheese coming in, doing this. I disgust myself. Please don’t. And I started towards the end of my time there, I started to realise that there’s a side of my character I don’t like very much, and it’s this incredible combination of ambition and a little tiny bit of almost intellectual arrogance, that I think I can do anything I want, I’m a sharp cooker.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
World’s my oyster and all this. And there was an element of that made me think that there’s a bit of poison in there, I don’t like it very much.

Prav Solanki:
You mentioned earlier that it affected you, like you’ve not recovered from it, or words to that effect. What do you mean by that, Dom?

Dominic O’Hooley:
I think, I look back at the time and I think I’ve obviously got, I’ve got regrets. I’ve got regrets that I didn’t have the wisdom I’ve got now, and I couldn’t talk to myself early days and say, “It’s the wrong road for, this. You don’t really understand yourself yet, you haven’t had an autism diagnosis, for example, yet. You know you’re odd, you’ve been told that enough times, and you know you mask for [inaudible 00:14:38], you could probably get an Academy Award for masking. But that doesn’t in any way, shape or form mean you’re the finished article.” And I wish I’d… So I’ve got regrets for that, but I’ve also got regrets that for so many different things, I could’ve handled it differently. I almost, at one point, I was getting 100, 200 emails a day on this BlackBerry, and I got this little reputation for one-word answers, yes, no, now, whatever. And it wasn’t because I was being a rude git, it was because I just didn’t have time.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And then I looked back at that and thought, what a tosser you were, honestly. And it don’t sit well on me. And when I say I haven’t recovered, I just think, I’m quite reflective and a little bit ruminatory, so sometimes I’ll go over things too many times. And one of the things I go over is that, and I think that’s an episode in my life over a period of years where I took something where I was actually doing something really good at Boots, and I actually corrupted it, in a way. And I stayed with something that my gut was telling me, the ethos in this company isn’t right, and the staff retention isn’t right, the way they treat people isn’t right, and I can’t live with that anymore. And I’m getting anxious now talking about it actually. So I’m [inaudible 00:15:58]-

Prav Solanki:
Yeah, yeah. I can see. Do you go somewhere to think about these things? Is there a place? Is there a time? Is there a location that you go away, you just ruminate over these things?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, yeah. I mean, the thing is before my obviously bike accident, which was a big thing, for most of my adult life, it was either long-distance [inaudible 00:16:22] running, where I’d be spending the time thinking about anything I could to get away from the pain I was under. And your mind would go all sorts of places.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And then later, it was cycling and often long-distance commuting to work. So I used to commute hundreds of miles a week on my bike, and it’d be an interesting thing in so far as it’d be a way to centre myself in the morning and understand, almost like I’ve got this performance to do, I’m on the stage today in this practise, and I’d cogitate the different reasons. I’d think, “I’ve got these people I’m going to be working with today, I’ve got these patients today, these are the ways that I’m going to get through this today.” And then I’m going to be able to, on the way home, I’m going to be able to come to terms with the goods and the bads and the uglies of today, but I’m also going to go into my mind about the things that have happened in the past. And that happened quite a lot.

Prav Solanki:
Whilst you were out clearing your mind-

Dominic O’Hooley:
When I was out on the bike.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And I get home, and then I’d probably wash the bike and put it away and I’d spend too long over it, and almost it was like I’d cherish it and think that this is almost a, you know like you can have a real attachment to something like a watch or something? And maybe if it was passed down to you or… For me, it was a bike. The bike, I loved the bike. I actually physically loved the bike. I loved it. I felt it was something that was allowing me to function as a human being. It was keeping me very fit and healthy, but it also, it was allowing my mind to go places that allowed me to function better when I was with people.

Prav Solanki:
It was more than a lump of iron.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It was. And then obviously, things changed a wee bit.

Prav Solanki:
We’ll talk about that in a moment, Dom, but before we do, I’d like us to go straight back to your childhood.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Absolutely.

Prav Solanki:
What was your upbringing like, Dom? Just tell us about your earliest memories of your childhood.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, I had it difficult all the time, to be honest with you. My father, very strong individual, Seamus O’Hooley, came over to England when he was 15 years old, was sending money back to the farm in Ireland, he was working as a potato picker, picking different vegetables. He then eventually became a [inaudible 00:18:47] he was a very hard man. He was a real womaniser. He obviously met my mom, I was his first born son, I thought at the time, and from a young age, unfortunately, we had a very difficult relationship. My mom was rather subservient to him in some ways. He was a dominant personality in the relationship, and I failed due to my mom’s personal battle she had with her own self-esteem that she put up with a lot from my dad, and that included witnessing my dad being very physically aggressive to me, including really, really quite bad physical violence from a young age.

Prav Solanki:
From what age?

Dominic O’Hooley:
He used to hit me even when I was five or six, but he really started hitting me when I was a bit older. So when I was nine or 10, he kicked me along the floor a few times, I got properly punched, and not nice.

Prav Solanki:
Why?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Because he couldn’t cope with the fact that… I’ve thought about this and I’ve even talked to my sister about it. He had different roles for me and my sister. The role he had for me was the whipping boy, the kind of, the way, the kind of target for his aggression. But also, that he realised I was quite intellectually gifted and he wanted me to do very well academically. And he was very forceful in the way that he encouraged me to do that. There were no way I wasn’t doing my homework.

Prav Solanki:
You had no choice.

Dominic O’Hooley:
No, but the thing was, that what he didn’t realise was that a core inside me is no way son, you’re not telling me what to do. So quite early days, I started becoming quite… And I’d give as good as I got. And my mum witnessed this and it was awful for my mum, but on the other hand, I’ve also, since my parents have died, I’ve had this really difficult thing in my mind where I thought, you could’ve protected me a bit more.

Prav Solanki:
As in your mum could have protected you?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, a bit more. And my sister said that to me as well, and my sister had a different type of abuse. She became my dad’s… Because she’s such a talented musician, she became his, what he should’ve been, because he thought he should’ve been an international famous singer. And she became his proxy into the world of musicianship in the world of entertainment.

Prav Solanki:
Living his life through her own. Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Living his life through her. And that got to the point where, when she was doing shows, he’d want to try and hijack the show and come on stage and actually do her number. And she built up this awful resentment for him because of that. There were no real physical stuff, but there was just as bad in some ways, it was a real deep emotional abuse. So it culminated, obviously my mum died when I was young of recurring breast cancer.

Prav Solanki:
How old?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well she got breast cancer when I was 15, and she recovered from that. And then she got a disseminated cancer in the lungs that was probably breast cancer come back 15 years later and she passed away. And one of those hard things you do when you’re a young guy, she passed away, I was actually in Cookridge Cancer Hospital with my dad and with my sister, and my mom was obviously not long for this life. She had a morphine driver and she was drifting in and out of consciousness and we knew it were coming. And I’d been with her on and off for the last 10 days in the hospital. And I always remember this, my sister went off to get a coffee and me and my dad were at the bottom of the bed and we were just talking. And for some reason, I just, must’ve been something inside me, I just instinctively turned around and I just had this feeling, I’ve got to go to my mom. Nothing obvious, but I went up to her and I grabbed, held her in my arms, and she died.

Prav Solanki:
There and then.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. And I always, there’s a couple things I remember. This is really difficult stuff, but it’s like she died and then her upper denture sort of fell down and it was… she was dead and it was not sitting right. And it was awful to look at, and I replaced it, put it back in for her. And then I thought, oh, fuck, my sister, my sister, my sister. And I tried to get my sister and my legs went, and I fell to my knees in the room and I just couldn’t get up. And it were weird, from the waist down, my legs had lost all their strength and I just couldn’t get up. And I managed to get up and I went and got my sister, and that was that.

Prav Solanki:
And how was your dad during this time? What was his frame of mind at this point? What was he saying?

Dominic O’Hooley:
He was destroyed. He’d become-

Prav Solanki:
… in his mind at this point. What was [inaudible 00:24:01]?

Dominic O’Hooley:
It was destroyed. It’d become almost [inaudible 00:24:05] in his head.

Prav Solanki:
Wasn’t the tough guy anymore?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No. No. No, the side of his character that I couldn’t cope with came out in different ways. He was in pieces, he just couldn’t manage at all in those weeks after her death. Couldn’t manage at all, and quite quickly linked up with another woman. She used to be the post mistress of the post office down… We used to live on a place called Tranmere Park in Guiseley, this posh estate, and then down at the bottom there was a post office and she was the post mistress, and he linked up with her.

Prav Solanki:
[inaudible 00:24:46].

Dominic O’Hooley:
And he was with her for the last 14 years of his life.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I don’t know, I mean I never warmed to her, and that weren’t all her fault at all. But it was also a case of, I could tell he were masking with her a lot of the time, and I don’t know. Unfortunately, as those years went by and my children got bigger, his manipulation became very different again, and he started manipulating my kids a bit, and he was trying to manipulate my wife. Let’s be clear about this, I want this bit on the record please. He tried to manipulate my wife and never managed it. She saw through him early doors, and he didn’t like it.

Prav Solanki:
Was that because your wife was the character that said, “I ain’t having any of this, sunshine”? Or because you were like, “I’m your son, but now you’ve met a husband”?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No. No, I think it was not exactly the former. I think it was, she’s so astute.

Prav Solanki:
Right.

Dominic O’Hooley:
One of the brightest people I know. And she just knew. And I think there’s almost an unspoken sixth sense. “I know. You’re either a narcissist, you’re a sociopath, you’re something. You’re not right. You’re at arm’s length. And if you do…”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And he was doing stuff like getting the kids to kneel at the bed and say their prayers at night and stuff, and we were not a religious family at that time, and the kids weren’t, and I’d actually said to him, “I don’t want you to do that. I don’t want you to do it.” And he’d still do it and just keep doing it. And every time they went, there was manipulation happening, and it got quite bad.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But then got to the point where we were a bit estranged. I still saw him a bit, but it was not at home. I’d see him at my work, place I work now.

Prav Solanki:
Dom, do you know you talked about he tried to manipulate your kids, tried to manipulate your wife? And I’m a father, I’m a husband as well. I always think about… I’m a son.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah. I’m a husband, and I’m a dad. As a son, I see my father and I respect my father and I have a lot of love for my father. Or anyone else, right? But as a husband or a father, they meet the father, or they meet the husband, and the husband and the father is a totally fucking different human being.

Prav Solanki:
Do you know what I mean? Do you understand where I’m coming from?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, I totally understand, yeah.

Prav Solanki:
How does that concept play out in terms of, obviously your dad was maybe different from mine in terms of your upbringing, so him coming along and manipulating your children. As a father, what role did you play there, and how did you feel about that?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, I was unhappy about it. I mean, it was subtle manipulation. It was manipulation, as in we’d say… I’m a dentist, and I didn’t want my children having extraneous sweets all the time, for example. I’d say, “They can have sweets,” obviously. I’m not a total dick. Well… “But they’re not having them all the time.” But they’d have them all the time with him. And I’d say, “Respect the fact that I’m their father. Respect the fact.” No.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And you could sort of sometimes think, “Well, he’s being a granddad” and all the rest of it. But I couldn’t quite get over the fact that I thought, “Well, it’s not as simple as that. It’s a power game, this. It’s a way of exerting control. It’s a way of putting one over particularly my wife.” And it got very difficult.

Dominic O’Hooley:
As I say, it was a bit estranged, and then my dad got diagnosed with something quite serious. We didn’t know what it were. He started stooping over when he was walking, he was in his mid eighties. He started losing muscle mass quite rapidly. And then on the day he died, he was finally diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Late onset motor neurone. I always thought, “Oh, people with motor neurone, they get it in their forties and fifties and they die,” you know? Or thirties, forties, fifties. But actually, there’s a second tranche of people in their eighties who seem to get it.

Dominic O’Hooley:
He got it, and as I said, he had some of the characteristic symptoms. He had muscle fasciculations all over his body. He was losing strength. He had it affecting his larynx, affecting his voice, all sorts. And then he died in my arms as well, with my sister sitting there with my sister’s wife, with Jane, his partner. And then it gets even more complicated, because it was with Daryl, who was the son who’s eight years older than me that he’d had with a woman.

Prav Solanki:
That you’d met at what point in your life?

Dominic O’Hooley:
On the day he died.

Prav Solanki:
That was the first time you met your older brother?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. Well. When I was 15 years old and I was living in Guiseley, my mum and dad were in the lounge, and some guy started walking up to the front door, and my dad said “Go upstairs” to me. And I went upstairs, and I could just hear crying in the lounge, and then there were nothing more said about it. That were Daryl coming to find his dad, when he was in his twenties.

Prav Solanki:
Wow. 23 year old-

Dominic O’Hooley:
Never told me. My dad never told me. My mom never told me. And I found out about him quite a long time before my dad died, but I couldn’t meet him. I just couldn’t do it.

Prav Solanki:
No.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I couldn’t do it. My sister was really, really keen to meet him and got a great relationship with him, and I started feeling almost a sensation of hatred about that. Thinking, “How can you?” You know? And it was all very complicated. Then I met him on the day my dad died, and he was sitting there as my dad died, with his son, Gabriel, who’s got the same name as my son. What’s going on? It’s crazy.

Prav Solanki:
What the chances of that?

Dominic O’Hooley:
I know. Gabriel, as well. It’s not the world’s commonest name.

Prav Solanki:
No no no no.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So they’re sitting there around this bed, my dad in side room in Bradford. St. Luke’s Hospital, where my dad died. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Prav Solanki:
No. How did your father passing make you feel?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Utterly conflicted. Because my sister said something to me. She said when he was laying in his bed on the day died, before he was moved to a side room, she’d told him a few things she’d wanted to tell him for a long time, and they weren’t very easy things. And I didn’t tell him anything like that.

Prav Solanki:
Did you want to?

Dominic O’Hooley:
A bit of me did, but a lot of me I didn’t, and I felt a lot of pain that she had. I thought, “The one thing I didn’t want you to do was do it when he can’t do anything.”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
He can’t even speak. You don’t know if he’s… He probably has heard you, but.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So yeah, it made me feel conflicted. From one part I thought, why didn’t I have the strength of character to just properly lay it on the line with your son the final time? And then I thought, well, that wouldn’t have sat well with me either.

Prav Solanki:
No.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So I kind of come to terms with the fact I didn’t do that, and I come to terms with the fact I was stroking his head when he died and holding him. And you got to accept the fact that’s what you did. That’s what I did.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And you know, I’ve got quite a strong feeling, sometimes when you’re at the very core of your emotions in the centre of your being, and you’re in these massively… It’s almost like the focus you have certain surgeries, but 10 times stronger. It’s this intense, on the moment time in your life, that the things you do are the things you should do. Often, usually. It’s like what you do if you’re a soldier and you’re on the front line.

Prav Solanki:
Instincts.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It’s instinct. So herefore you go over the top, you do what you do. You can’t make yourself, you do what you do.

Prav Solanki:
You did what you did.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. And over time I’ve come to terms with that.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But at his funeral, when his coffin was there and we were in the church in Saltaire and I was standing there giving my oration, there was a lot of honesty came out then. And a lot of our relations from Ireland were there sitting in the congregation, and I got a bit of backlash. I got a little bit of feedback from that.

Prav Solanki:
You’re used to that, though, aren’t you Dom? Speaking your mind and getting backlash.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I am. Oh aye, oh aye. I am. I just said I had to do it, and I didn’t do it in a nasty way. I weren’t speaking ill of the dead, I was being honest about the dead.

Prav Solanki:
Was there a sense of relief when he passed at all?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. It’s a funny situation, insofar as when he passed, I lost a stone in weight eating the same amount as normal, training, not feeling ill in any way. But just in the weeks before as well, I just started losing weight, and I started thinking, “Oh my God, I’m losing weight.” And I always remember, went to London and I was on a course. And he weren’t at an hospital at this point, but he were obviously very unwell.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And I was on this course, and I always remember when I stayed at the Royal Society of Medicine, I used to go to the Pret that’s nearby. It’s near Harley Street, and I’d go to that Pret, and normally I’d have something quite healthy to eat and think, “Oh, I’m being a good lad,” go back and [inaudible 00:34:22]. But I really were buying the most unhealthy stuff I could, and I was stuffing my face with it, and when I got back from London, I thought, “I’m going to go on the scales. I bet I’ve put a bit of weight on.” I’d lost more weight. And then I got a little bit scared. I thought, “Oh my God, have I got some form of…”

Prav Solanki:
Something,.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“… something bad going on here?” And a bit of me inside was thinking, “No, it’s just you’re not processing. There’s something you’re not processing here, and you’re having a very, very quiet physical…”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
You know, “There’s somewhat physical happening to you as a side effect of something going on in you. And you don’t know what it is yet, but it’s not particularly good.”

Prav Solanki:
[inaudible 00:34:58] serious. Right.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So yeah, once he’d died, my weight stabilised and went up again. I’s weird that, isn’t it?

Prav Solanki:
Yeah. Yeah, really strange.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Let’s talk about your kids, Dom. When they were born, upbringing, where you’re at with them now.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I met my wife Rebecca when she’d been married before and had a six year old daughter, Leigh, who’s a fantastic girl. She’s now in her thirties. And yeah, it’s a funny one isn’t it? You know it’s the one for you. I didn’t… Well, I did a bit, straight away. I always thought I was going to be bit of a player till I was 40 and loads of girlfriends and then I might get married, but it were nothing like that. And I met my wife to be, and there must have been a bit of love there somewhere.

Prav Solanki:
Do you remember the day you first met her?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah I do, because I remember this for a particularly quite funny reason. I used to go to a gym in [inaudible 00:36:05] called the Manor, and I used to do a lot of circuit classes.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I’ve always been quite fit and I’d done a lot of TA stuff, and I was fit, and I used to go to this gym and do quite hard circuit classes. But this particular day, I thought, “I’m going to do something different. I’m going to do something like…” I think it’s called body pump.

Prav Solanki:
Oh right.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Where it’s these black weight, and you do this set of sessions. And I thought, “I’ll find this really easy,” and it wasn’t easy, actually, at all.

Prav Solanki:
Right.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But at the end of it, the instructor was not a close friend, but he were a friend of mine. And I just said to him at the end, I said, “Who’s that girl at front, on the left hand side there with black hair?”

Prav Solanki:
Took your fancy.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh aye. And he said, “She’s called Rebecca, but hands off, that’s my girlfriend.” So a couple of weeks later, we had a Manor night out, and we ended up for some reason UpYerRonson night club in Leeds. Well, night in Leeds.

Prav Solanki:
And the rest is history.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And the rest is history. Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Before we got married, we had Gabriel when we were just living together. Gabriel’s now 24. Fine young man, one of the kindest people I know. And if we get a chance, I’ll tell you more about that in a bit. Then Rufus, he’s 21. He’s nearly six foot four and a half, he’s incredibly handsome guy. He’s obviously got that off his mother.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And then my 16 year old boy is Humphrey, and Humphrey is very special. He’s non-verbal autistic. He’s got really severe learning difficulties as well, and unfortunately he’s got quite challenging behaviours that have manifested themselves through his life, really. And he was diagnosed quite young. He was diagnosed when he was two with autism. It’s quite young, it’s very young actually. And then I’ve got Jemima, who’s 15, and she’s the apple of my eye. She’s doing her mocks soon, mock GCSEs.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It’s been difficult. Obviously I had my accident in 2018, and then Humphrey, eventually his challenging behaviours got to the point, especially with a lot of physical stuff, particularly targeting my wife, that it got to the point that we couldn’t have shared care, social carers coming, none of it were working. He had to really go into an autism specific residential placement. And that was the case until about 14 months ago.

Prav Solanki:
Dom, if we just go back just one second.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
You said you couldn’t have shared care. You couldn’t have this situation.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Could you just explain what the situation was, why it was that you needed the care? Just with a few examples of-

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. So an absolutely lovely, lovely young boy, but with an inherent central urge to constantly do something called absconding behaviour, which means not because he’s frightened or anything, he just wants to run, and he wants to run in one direction and keep going. And he’d do that all his life. And add to that an ability, almost like an internationally renowned boulderer, the ability to climb. A free climbing idiot savant. Somebody who’s just got that, he can just free climb.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So he’s over your fence of your bottom… You got a 10 foot fence on the bottom of garden. He’s over it at five years old within seconds, and he’s down the other side and he’s off. He’s through a conservatory window that’s perhaps that high, a little square one that opens. He’s through it now, and he’s off. Your back’s turned for a moment and you feel awful guilt. “My back was…” But we’re humans, and you think, “It’ll never happen to me. Supervision, no, he’ll be safe all the time.” No. Everybody has a moment when they switch off, they turn round, they’re distracted. He’s gone. The ultimate opportunist.

Dominic O’Hooley:
That was one element of it. The other element, unfortunately, was that if he got frustrated, it’d lead to awful self-harming behaviour. For example, things like biting his own fingernails off. Off. Not just the tip of them, off. And then laughing. Really unusual emotional responses to severe pain. And then unfortunately, violence. You know, smashing things, hitting, throwing things.

Prav Solanki:
From what age?

Dominic O’Hooley:
From very young. Six or seven. Very young. But then getting really bad when he was 11, quite a big boy, and very bad. And unnatural level of strength, very difficult to carefully restrain him so he couldn’t hurt himself. Very difficult to do it, even for me. Disordered sleeping, up several times in the night, coming in, hitting you from sleep, hurting himself. Awful. Awful. For him. Awful for everybody, but awful for him.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And combine that with very average social care provision in the UK. Combine that with the overstretched, lovely people who have become social workers, these saints who have got too many people to care for, and they’re suffering from incipient burnout, and they’re travelling to try and deal with all these plates that they’re juggling. And at the same time they’ve got this family in crisis, but on the surface it’s a family that’s very successful. They’ve got a successful dentist, living in a nice house. Quite a large family. They’ve obviously got the money to have a few kids and all the rest of it. They’re very healthy, does his sport. We’re in crisis. We’re in serious crisis. He’s in crisis, everybody’s in crisis.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And what we’ve realised since is that if Humphrey could have his ideal life, it’d be the same every day. Same people, same food, the same schedule, no changes. The ability to go and destimulate himself and go and be on his own whenever he wanted. To feel safe, secure, and to control his anxiety. And that’s never going to happen in a house with other kids and with people coming knocking on the door, papers coming in, all the rest of it. If they deliver the papers through the door, he’d freak out. If it was a different bus driver taking him to the special school, West Oaks School, if it was just a different bus driver, completely-

Prav Solanki:
Send him off on one.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Utterly. He broke his own foot in the back of the bus. They had to restrain him, he kicked the back of a seat and broke his own foot. Things like that. And I’m getting het up.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So the only solution, really, was to go to a residential autism school, and it was called Wilsic Hall, and it’s in Doncaster. And it was a difficult few years for us, because it’s too far. It’s a long journey to go. And so we were going every week. Every Christmas Day, we’d go there. And it was such a bittersweet thing, because we’re going to this fricking place where…

Dominic O’Hooley:
And because he’s autistic, he’d started replacing his carers in his affections with his family, which they do. So his primary carer, a female carer, became almost like his mother. How hard’s that for Rebecca? How hard’s that? Impossible, it’s just so hard. And then last March, Ofsted went and closed it. 24 hours.

Prav Solanki:
Wow.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Whistle blowing. Systemic abuse on multiple sites. So not only Wilsic Hall School, but Fullerton House School, which is another of the same company’s schools. Systemic abuse, possibly sexual, definitely physical. Emotional abuse. Withdrawing food. Stuff like that, all sorts.

Dominic O’Hooley:
My understanding is still, at this stage, and there’s a three million pound investigation going on with South Yorkshire Police, that Humphrey wasn’t directly affected with physical or sexual abuse as far as we know. It’s just awful isn’t it, because he can’t tell you, can he? But he came home in March last year and he’s been living at home again.

Prav Solanki:
Oh he’s back home?

Dominic O’Hooley:
He’s back home. And it’s good, but it’s not good. Leeds social care said there’s nowhere else suitable for Humphrey in the UK at the moment.

Prav Solanki:
Is he back home because you’ve got no choice?

Dominic O’Hooley:
He’s back home because we’ve got no choice. And unfortunately he’s traumatised by his routine for three and a half years being taken away in 24 hours. For the first six months, he didn’t want to leave the house. He wouldn’t leave the front, he wouldn’t go out the front door. After four months, he went in the back garden for the first time. Spend a lot of his time wanting to lay in his room on his bed. He was very traumatised. He’d regressed with any attempts at verbal interaction that he had. All sorts.

Dominic O’Hooley:
When carers came to try and facilitate care at the house, he started assaulting the carers. Particularly one carer who’s fantastic with him, a lady called Julie. She’s only five foot tall, and he clattered her, and she fell into a bookcase and screamed. And because she screamed, every time he saw her he clattered her to get her to scream. Because for him, her screaming is the absolute most exciting thing ever. He don’t understand that it’s a bad thing. He don’t know. All to him is it’s an amazingly exciting thing that she does.

Prav Solanki:
And if he wants that to happen, [inaudible 00:46:57] do something to make it happen.

Dominic O’Hooley:
He has to do that. So the carers couldn’t come anymore, so therefore, and this goes back to Gabriel now. This goes back to my incredibly selfless 24 year old son, who took a year out, his final year at Liverpool University, and he’s come home to live with us. Doing chemistry. And he’s Humphrey’s full-time carer.

Prav Solanki:
Wow.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I know. I know. What can you say? I can’t say anything about that. We managed to persuade Leeds social care, he’s getting paid for that, and he’s getting paid 50 hours a week for it, because it’s at least 50 hours a week, and it’s seven days a week.

Prav Solanki:
He ain’t doing it for the money though, is he?

Dominic O’Hooley:
And he’s not doing it an eight hour a day shift and going off and having time to recuperate, he’s doing it and he’s doing it and he’s doing it. So yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So it’s difficult. But I don’t want people who are perhaps watching this in the future to think, “Oh God, tale of woe.” It isn’t a tale of woe.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… in the [inaudible 00:48:05], there’s the most magical things as well, and it’s … we’ve got one life and we’ve got to do the best, and this lad has got to reach his full potential, and we don’t know what his full potential is.

Prav Solanki:
What’s their relationship like?

Dominic O’Hooley:
It’s amazing. Not always.

Dominic O’Hooley:
He clatters Gabriel, but he also kisses Gabriel. He’ll come up to Gabriel and he’ll kiss him on both cheeks and he’ll do … he does this thing. It’s almost like crooning.

Dominic O’Hooley:
He’s stoking. It’s lovely. Honestly, it’s it makes you feel emotional when you watch him doing it and he’s got this special bond with him, so it’s-

Prav Solanki:
Wow.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Prav Solanki:
I guess that wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t come home, right?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, and I wonder sometimes Gabriel … does he suffer with self-confidence issues in his life? And I wonder sometimes whether he appreciates quite what he’s done. I don’t think he does. And I say it, and I think, “You’re a hero in my eyes.”

Prav Solanki:
Absolutely.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“You’re a hero. You’ll always be my hero, that you’ve done this. You are one of these quiet heroes. You’re not going about bragging about it. You just-”

Prav Solanki:
Put his career on hold.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
What can I say? And if only … I know that he gets a lot out of it as well. As I said … moving on now, it looks like we’re going to have a residential provision close to home in Harrowgate, and it looks like things are going to be better, but what a guy, you know?

Prav Solanki:
What a guy.

Dominic O’Hooley:
What a guy, seriously. Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Tell us about the apple of your eye, Dom.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, Jemima. Bloody hell, she’s-

Prav Solanki:
Doing her mocks?

Dominic O’Hooley:
She’s doing her mocks. She’s so intelligent. She’s so sharp. Bloody hell.

Prav Solanki:
I wonder where she gets that from?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, I don’t know, amen. And she’s so … she takes the good bits of progressive social justice, the thing that the kids have now, and she takes it in a very mature way, and she seems to be able to accept the fact that I’ve got issues with certain aspects of it, and we don’t have this endless falling out. She’s not so … she’s so mature for her age in the way she’s able to almost see my point of view. What we’re trying to do is shape her, but not shape her. So we don’t want to be these helicopter parents, where we’re just basically always on the top of her and hyper-controlling and keeping us safe from home and all the rest of it. No, your best experiences, your most important life experiences, are the ones where you’re a bit on the edge of … with a bit of risk, for various reasons. And she’s got to have them, because you don’t become a fully-functioning human being unless you’ve had that. So she’s going to have them and all we can do is try our best.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But she’s … yeah … what a girl, and luckily she got her looks for my mother, because my wife is … every time people see us together, they go, “You’re punching above your weight, Dom,” and I say, “Yeah, I am actually.”

Prav Solanki:
I get that all the time, mate.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sure you do. Yeah, well, me and you together.

Prav Solanki:
We must have something, mate.

Dominic O’Hooley:
We must.

Prav Solanki:
What about your autism diagnosis?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, it’s a funny one because it’s become a bit … it’s not fashionable … but there’s a lot of people seem to be getting diagnosed and all this now and it’s become almost like another level of victim mode that you can use for this and for that and the other, and to make you special and unique and this and give yourself allowances and you can get away with stuff, because you’re this. Okay.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So for me it was from being in Infant Two at primary school, when a teacher said to my mum, “He’s really odd.”

Prav Solanki:
As simple as that.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I don’t think is

Dominic O’Hooley:
That. I don’t think they say that now. “He’s really odd. I don’t know why, but he’s really odd. There’s something unworldly about him. He’s obviously bright, but he is very odd.”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And all the way through me, school career, the same, and even my mum used to say, “He’s such an odd bod.” It’s bad hearing that a lot.

Prav Solanki:
Your mum would say that to you?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh yeah, yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Just remembered something. Let’s just go back to that quickly, so we can just close that chapter.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
How could have your mum protected you more?

Dominic O’Hooley:
By leaving my dad.

Prav Solanki:
Do you think she had the courage or the strength or the balls to do that?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No. And that weren’t really entirely her fault because the way she had been brought up, with a controlling father who … her father used to bring prostitutes back to the house when he was living with her mother, whilst she was in the house. A horrible man by all account. I never met him. He died before I was born.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But it seems to … it’s almost like she’s self-selected a-

Prav Solanki:
Her partner.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… a new version of that.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Likes have this slightly malignant presence in my life. “I need it. It’s what I’m used to.”

Dominic O’Hooley:
So I think going back to your question, “Did she have the strength to leave him?” No, and I can’t really be fully resentful of that, can I?

Prav Solanki:
No.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And it wouldn’t be fair for me to be.

Prav Solanki:
No, I don’t think so.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Not at all. No, that’d be very entitled of me, actually, and that’s not right, and I … from my point of view … no. And that’s why I generally, I just … I don’t know … I struggle with trying to get me ducks in a row with all this. I’m quite good at getting me ducks in a row with a lot of things, but not with this. Not good with this.

Prav Solanki:
I guess it’s … have you read a book called The Gift by Edith Edgar?

Dominic O’Hooley:
I haven’t.

Prav Solanki:
Read it.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Okay.

Prav Solanki:
92 year old Holocaust survivor.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Right.

Prav Solanki:
She’s a therapist. I certainly felt … I’ll connect with various books, right? But I felt through reading that, she puts things into perspective for all of us, through what she went through in her life, but it’s not about that. It’s actually about how you can give yourself therapy, and you might have heard about it. Some people band it as, “Oh yeah, IFS, internal family systems,” and stuff like that.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Right, okay.

Prav Solanki:
But a lot of it, Dom, revolves about around going back and talking to your younger self, do you know what I mean?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
And imagining that person stood next to you, close your your eyes.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I think I do it a little bit in my blog writing. So I tend to do this blog called Old Dentist, which tends to be quite short pieces.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But they’re quite … I don’t know … they’re written in a way that’s coming very, very, very rawly from the very centre of me. And that is, I think, you can tell sometimes, because you read it and you think, “Bloody hell, there’s a lot of rawness in that,” and I try to do with that. A lot of the individual blogs are about when I was a young lad.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
When I was frightened, when I was sitting at the top of the stairs listening to my parents arguing, when I was wondering, was my dad going to come up upstair … all that type of thing.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So yeah … but going back to what you’ve been saying, taking that a step further and trying to really … I’ve always had an intellectual barrier with trying to imagine how I can do that any more than just getting into this … when I write, sometimes, people say, “God, that’s quite well-written. It’s not long, but it’s very well-written,” and they say, “How long did that take?” And I says, It’s about 15 minutes, that.” It’s just emotional dumping ground.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And then I resist the temptation to do a lot of editing.

Prav Solanki:
So what she speaks about is going back to that boy at the top of the stairs.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, yeah.

Prav Solanki:
And sitting down next to him, and putting your arm around him-

Dominic O’Hooley:
Really?

Prav Solanki:
… and telling him everything’s going to be okay, because it is okay now, isn’t it?

Dominic O’Hooley:
It’s pretty okay.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah, it’s all right, isn’t it?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah? And just going back and visiting your former self, because that boy still exists within you-

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, yeah.

Prav Solanki:
… and he’s not had a chance to heal.

Prav Solanki:
Anyway, let’s move back onto your autism diagnosis, and then [inaudible 00:57:35].

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well very quickly, so many people called me out. My wife knew I was autistic from the moment … not the moment she met me, but pretty quickly-

Prav Solanki:
From the body pump class?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No, but from the … I think the same way she saw through my dad, she saw through … “You are masking.”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“What are you masking?”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And then she started to see, “Well, he is masking because he is actually … he’s very, very … he’s walking through a room with the mask over his eyes. He doesn’t really … he’s trying his best, but he’s working it out as he goes along.”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And she started saying to me, “You need to, at least, find out, because I think you are. So many other people think you are. If I talk to one of your friends, they’ll laugh and say, ‘Of course he is.'”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And so I went through it … through the NHS. I went to my doctor first and I said, “I’m fairly sure I’m on the autism spectrum,” and I talked to them why, for about an hour. It’s a long time with the GP. Got referred to the … basically to this process through the NHS, that eventually led up to a very detailed set of interviews with a panel, and then at the end of all that process, the lead psychiatrist said, “Well, I’m going to tell you something you already know. You’re very autistic, but you’re very high functioning, but you are … you are, you are autism.”

Dominic O’Hooley:
It’s led to one of the things I call myself, the Autist. It’s not even the real word, the Autist, but that’s my … and yeah, so it’s been good in some ways, because it’s allowed me to think, “Right, well, it’s not all nurture there’s nature there.”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“I am who am, and I’ve got a few gifts as well.” I can do stuff that other people may not … some can … but may not do quite as well, as quickly.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I can read, take a lot of information in, I can rip through it, get through to the salient points, and get them out there. I can seem to understand what’s important at certain times, and run with it and engage.

Prav Solanki:
Articulate yourself very well.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, I can articulate myself well, but on the other hand, it can also lead to an inability to read those verbal cues, especially on social media, where there aren’t verbal cues, where you’re actually really offending people, you have to take offence. I know all this, but there’s an element of, you’ve got to be kind as well, and I think sometimes when you are kind … because I’m kind, it’s just that I don’t appear kind, but inside I’m kind, it just don’t come across that way at all.

Prav Solanki:
But there’ve been a few comments that you’ve made on social media, and I could read into them and say, “Well if he was speaking to you, he might articulate himself slightly differently,” but a bit like your Blackberry, your one word answers, or your little two word answers, but actually they’re quite poignant points that you make in your social media comments, and it doesn’t actually require a full-blown explanation, but I could also see how other people might take offence to it.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh yeah.

Prav Solanki:
And, I guess, that’s one of the throwbacks of social media, isn’t it, that-

Dominic O’Hooley:
It is, and it’s also the fact I’m using it as a big experiment. So there’s the fact that for me, social media is an experiment in gaining knowledge of human reactions. So therefore, sometimes I’m lighting a blue fuse, I’ll throw in a grenade-

Prav Solanki:
To see what happens.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… to see what happens, and then to very carefully analyse what happens, because that actually aids me.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And it’s not the cynical, “Oh, well I’ll know you now, because you know how you’re reacted to that, so now I know your limits and I know how you’ll respond to me in certain situations,” and there is actually an element of that as well. So I don’t want to appear like I’m saying no, there is an element of that, but there’s also … it’s an element of, “Okay, so now I’ve done that. I’ve lobbed that particular grenade, and I’ve realised that made me feel very, very uncomfortable.”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“And I didn’t really want it to, and I didn’t realise why it had, and now I understand why has, but now I’ve got to perhaps build some bridges really, because-“, and sometimes when I meet people who I am building bridges sometimes, not always though-

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… because there’s certain red lines, but you know-

Prav Solanki:
Totally, and I think one of the nice things about being here today, after being away from human beings for such a long time, is just being able to connect physically in person-

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, absolutely.

Prav Solanki:
… with people. It’s lovely. It’s absolutely lovely to-

Dominic O’Hooley:
It is.

Prav Solanki:
… actually meet people in person.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It is, and I’ve looked forward to seeing you again-

Prav Solanki:
It’s great.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… and I’ll be honest with you, it’s nice seeing old friends coming to the … and chatting, and you seem like you haven’t been away for two minutes, don’t you?

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And it’s just … there you go, picking up the old conversation again.

Prav Solanki:
It’s like seeing an old pal.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Absolutely.

Prav Solanki:
And it could go 10 years, and then it’s almost like you’re transported back in time.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah, and yet I’ve heard some such poignant stories in the last couple of days. I’ve heard some really poignant stories.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And the person who might watch this will know one of the poignant stories that almost made me cry, and I don’t cry easy either. But I had a definite old lump in me throat … and yeah, they’ll know who it is … and it’s like, “Whoa.”

Prav Solanki:
During this event?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah. And it’s happened twice now. So yeah, there’s a lot of hurt. We’ve got hurt. We’ve got hurt because we’ve been let down too many times. We’re in a profession already, that’s taking the marrow out of us and throwing it on the floor. We’re now gone through COVID, where we’ve been told what to do by people who are telling us what to do, because it makes themselves sometimes feel better. They’re in their ivory towers, looking down, telling the plebs what to do. Their evidence-base that they’re using is probably equivalent of getting a cup of tea and getting the leaves on the floor and reading them sometimes, and yet they’re so full of authority, and we’ve gone through that.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Then we’ve gone through, obviously we’re in a situation where we’ve got a mad man threatening to blow the world up-

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
… and then we’ve got this top line view of the situation, so everybody’s just, “It’s all for Ukraine,” and that’s affecting everyday Russians, who probably absolutely detest the very ground Putin walks on, but they’re all being tarred with the same brush, and it’s so complicated. There’s no black and whites, and yet the whole thing about top line understanding is, we live in a world now where we’re able to get a lot of information in very quickly through our smartphones, but with no depth at all about anything.

Prav Solanki:
Because that’s all filtered.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It’s split verts … bang, bang, bang.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And it’s all filtered, and you get an opinion, and you don’t know your opinion from your reality, from your fake news, from your … this from your that … you’re being manipulated 50 times in your first hour of your morning, when you’re lying in bed with your cup a tea, reading your phone. You’ve being highly manipulated, and as human beings, we’re looking for patterns, and unfortunately those patterns are leading us down rabbit holes. Some of those rabbit holes are leading us into conspiracy theories, and intelligent people are getting taken down conspiracy theories where, if you listen to them in the cold light of day, you think, “Fucking, I’m talking rubbish there, what are you doing?” But then you think, “Right, well, why are they doing it?”

Dominic O’Hooley:
They’re doing it because they’ve gone on a journey, where they’ve been basically polluted by too much information in too little time, with too little ability to have the ability to lay back and actually get their ducks in a row. Don’t have time for that, so they’ve got to make snap judgments all the time, and they’ve got to believe this, and they’ve got to believe that Hunter Biden’s laptop was really … it was just Trump messing about, it wasn’t a real thing.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, and you got to hate Trump, and you got to love Biden, and you got to do this, and you got to do that, and you got to be on this. And if you’re not with this group, and these group that shout the loudest, they’re the ones you got to listen, and if you don’t, “Oh, you could get cancelled,” and if you get cancelled, that’s your life over and they won’t leave you. You can apologise once or what? You’ll have to apologise again. Then they’ll go for you again. Then they’ll go for you again, and they will only be happy when there’s nothing left of you.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But then you’ll get people like perhaps Ricky Gervais, whose latest little thing for Netflix is Supernatural, I think it’s called. He’s going for a few of the unspoken stuff you shouldn’t be talking about, and is that because he feels he’s too big to be cancelled, and I’m not sure about that. Elon Musk, is he too big to be cancelled?

Dominic O’Hooley:
We’re getting a bit of a fight back.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And I think it’s just the way the world’s working. We’re re-centering again. We’ve gone a little bit too far this way now, and so the nutwackers have started taking on the agenda. So we’re going to re-centre again, and hopefully civilization’s going to advance again.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Hopefully. Sorry.

Prav Solanki:
No, it’s cool, Dom. If I didn’t ask this question, I think whoever’s listening to this is going to say, “Why the hell didn’t you ask it?” What was the lump in your throat moment?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Today? Well, I’ve had two of them.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It was somebody told me that … and it’s happened twice today. Somebody told me that they’d had … it didn’t happen today the first time, but it’s happened again today. Somebody’s told me that they’d gone through a lifetime of suicidal ideations, and we’re chatting away, and I said, “Well, that’s not unknown for men.” I said, “I’ve had them on and off all me life, had to walk with the dog and look in a [inaudible 01:07:32] and think, ‘That will support me, right?’

Dominic O’Hooley:
And you’ve got to understand that it’s not an essentially a bad thing to have that in your mind. If you’re a deep thinker, you’ll tend to explore all sorts of stuff. Don’t mean you’re going to slap yourself.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
However, this person I was talking to, had made an attempt on their life, and it’s only by serendipity that they aren’t dead, because they did something that should have killed them, but they woke up a few hours later and they thought, “Oh my God, what have I done?” And managed to ring an ambulance and they’re still here, and that’s the great thing, because this person’s a lovely person, but this person is going on a journey now, where they’re actually hopefully going to be a bit safe from that in the future. And it brings us back to the whole thing that we’re in … men, particularly, I think … we have this … we not only commit suicide in the most brutal ways imaginable, the shotgun, we hang ourselves, we jump in front of a train, we do the rest of it.

Dominic O’Hooley:
We also can be impulsive, so we can do impulsive … so we can be going about and then think, “I’m going to do it,” and just do it. And that’s something about men, and it’s something about … and when you tie that in with the fact that men historically have got the stiff upper lip and they don’t talk about their failings, you’ve got a very dangerous combination.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah, yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Very dangerous. And that’s why one of the good things that’s coming out of … not so much social justice, but more about-

Prav Solanki:
Talking about it.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And you can say, “Well Harry and Meghan, and all that … can’t be doing with that. Can’t be doing with all that my truth rubbish, and all this bloody fake emotion.”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
No, but there’s a core where, men been able to share their emotion and … real hard lads, guys who were Marines, they’ve lost their leg and they’re talking about their emotions, and people who are suffering from PTSD. People who’ve done things in the lives when they were perhaps in the armed forces that were difficult to cope with, they’re having to offload it, and all these different things, and that goes back to professions like dentistry, where we’re almost unique, in so far as we’re not only meeting loads of patients, like GPs are, but every single one of them don’t want to be there, really. And every single one of them’s protecting their own airway, because it’s the deepest responses … one of the deepest impulses to a human is to protect their airway, and what we’re doing is we’re basically saying, “Oh, I’m going to put a drill in, right where you’re protecting your airway, spray water on it.”

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
“And I’m going to expect you to feel relaxed, and I might put rubber down one as well, so you’ll struggle to breathe a bit. Oh, and it’s a bit hot in here today,” and you know what else I’ll do? I’ll dress up as Darth Vader because now it’s COVID, so I’ll look like bloody Darth Vader, and you won’t be able to hear what I’m saying anyway.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So there we go.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah. Wow. Dom, I think there’s one last thing that I want to talk about.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Okay.

Prav Solanki:
And you know what it is. The big accident.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh.

Prav Solanki:
Take us back to that time, Dom, when you decided to go out on that final bike ride, and what were your last memories of it? So take us through that day.

Dominic O’Hooley:
All right. I’ve written about this. I’ve got an unpublished novel actually, so I’ve got 57,000 words on this, one of the chapters about this … there’s a few things that stick in my mind.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Got up that morning, made me wife and me pint mug of tea. Always did. Don’t know whether it was a three bagger or a four bagger that day, but there was several teabags in each one. Like it strong.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I remember I put a top on to cycle in that morning. It was Friday the 13th of July, and I think I probably had a little thought about … I’m not suspicious generally, but maybe it came into my mind for a moment … and I pulled it out of my drawer, where me cycling stuff was, pulled this top out, and it was as bright as anything. It was bright orange, and it had a chevron on the front, and it was a really beautiful Prendas cyclist top, short sleeve top. Lovely. And I put it on with me black bib shorts and I thought, “I’m looking good today. Maybe a bit orange, but I’m looking good.”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And actually … I think I even said to Rebecca, “You can’t miss me, can you,” because I’d gone through a phase in me life where I used to wear just black a lot when I were cyc-

Dominic O’Hooley:
Because I’d gone through a phase in my life where I used to wear just black a lot when I’m cycling, because I’d heard somewhere that in the urban environment wearing black was actually a good thing. You could be seen quite easily. I’m not sure how true that is, actually, but the main reason I wore black is because it made me look slimmer and I thought I looked a bit more like a pro cyclist. So there it wasn’t really about the getting seen, man. It’s because I was being a poser. But going back to that morning, I was wearing my bright top and I set off the work as normal, and it was a beautiful morning.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So it was one of those morning where it’s just warm enough that it’s not too warm. You’re not going to start sweating straight away when you cycle, but it’s nice and warm. It’s not freezing, you’re not feeling cold. There’s hardly any wind. So it’s that lovely stillness, and you almost feel, you almost taste the fact, this is going to be a good one, this. This is going to be a great ride on the way to work.

Prav Solanki:
What time in the morning were you out?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, will have been about 20 past 7 in the morning setting off, going to Huddersfield and everything went to [inaudible 01:13:03]. So I’m cycling away. Very, very artistic in my cycling, so I’m constantly aware of my cadence, constantly aware of how much effort I’m putting in. I’m aware of my heart rate. I’m using it as a training experience. Can’t be any messing about. I’m constantly gauging my fitness against what it was last week, whatever. I’m taking into account the road conditions and all the rest of it. I’m thinking about the danger points, all the ones that you get. So going down the… I used to call it the wall of death, which is where cars have stopped in traffic and you’re going down the left side of them. And one opens his door to let somebody out that’s when the wall of death happens. So you’re very aware then, really aware. Fingers on the brakes, ready.

Prav Solanki:
You’re processing all that at the same time?

Dominic O’Hooley:
So it’s a constant, it’s almost like this computer whirring, and you’re in this heightened zone. It’s almost like when you’re doing high end implant surgery, you become in the zone and time goes away and you’re in this place. It’s almost like when you hear an orchestra or a soloist playing the part, their abilities, they’ve gone somewhere. They’ve transcended humanity in a way. And in a minor way, I’ve done that when I’m cycling, I’m becoming a… it’s almost like a spiritual place. And then, as said, I always remember I went past this school, which is near Wyke in Bradford. It’s this really modern secondary school. And I always look at it and think, “Oh, that’s cool looking school, that.” And then I think “Yeah, it’s still school though, isn’t it?”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And I was shooting down this hill and it was towards this crossroads called Hellfire Crossroads, which is between Wyke and Brighouse.

Prav Solanki:
Hellfire?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Hellfire Crossroads. It’s got it for a reason, it’s loads of car accidents there over the years. So if you go down the hill, so you’re going towards Brighouse. If you turned right, you’d go to Halifax. If you turned left, you’d go on Whitehall Road to Leeds. But if you go straight on, it takes you to Brighouse and then to Huddersfield. So going through there, green lights, here we go. Doing about 25 mile an hour, something like that, down a steady incline, a steady descent. Guy in an extended crafter van coming the other way, so he decides to turn right into me. And I have no knowledge of anything, from halfway down the road and seeing the green lights, have no knowledge for three or four days after that.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But the guy hit me with a combined impact speed of about 50 miles an hour, just under 50 miles an hour. And I was smashed. So I hit the front of the crafter van very hard. And my right forearm, the muscles on the forearm were partially degloved, which meant that they were ripped from the bone, but they were still attached. So there wasn’t a full day gloving. My right index finger was ripped in half, and was sticking outside, and it was an open fracture dislocation. So the joint was exposed to the open air. My bones in my forearm, multiple compound fractures. And some of them were through the skin, through the bones sticking out, was bleeding very heavily.

Dominic O’Hooley:
My left wrist, explosive fractures of the left wrist. That included compression of the nerves in my hand. So I obviously lost all feeling in my hand, broken neck, C7-T1, unstable fracture. So by some luck I didn’t end up paraplegic, but could have. 48 stitches around my left eye from an enormous cut from here to here that led to an orbital F modal fracture of my left frontal, F modal bone, and orbital ridge that led to air going into my head, into my cranial [inaudible 01:17:10], two bleeds on my brain, one of them extensive, what we call a diffuse, external injury, 70% vision loss in my left eye.

Prav Solanki:
Surprised you’re sat here talking to me right now.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh. Put in the air ambulance and supposedly, well, I know from watching the programme post accident, that I said, “Get off me,” as I was put in, so semiconscious. I’ve been given ketamine, for good or bad, probably good for something like that. And then yeah, for a week in hospital, the first week I had four operations in seven days, tried the best to serve my right arm, which they managed, obviously. One of the operations was to decompress the nerve in my left hand. And it was a really surreal experience. One of the things in hospital was they had been on sertraline, which is an antidepressant, SSRI. I had been on it mainly for anxiety for a long time. And for some reason, I’d gone off it. They took me off it. I don’t know why they’d done it.

Dominic O’Hooley:
But I started having… When I was coming around from my head injury, I started having some aberrant reactions. So I was becoming very, very agitated. So they put me on olanzapine, which is an atypical antipsychotic. And the one side effect had been put on olanzapine is that I started getting this full body movement thing going on. And I always remember Adam Glasford and his wife, Lisa, came to visit me in hospital. And for the whole time they were there, I was doing this. And I weren’t aware I were doing it at all, not at all. And he said to me, after, he said, months later, he said, “When I looked at you in hospital, I was trying to put on a brave face, but I thought, ‘Oh God, what’s going on here? He’s not coming back from that.'”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And so day seven, I think, I had three days come round properly. And in the morning they brought me pills, and there was this big white one. And I said, “What’s that?” Because I’ve always been interested in stuff like that. I thought, “What’s that?” She said, “Oh, it’s olanzapine.” And me being me, being an artistic chap, I thought, “Oh, olanzapine, atypical antipsychotic. I’m not taking that.” She said, “Oh, you need to take that.” I said, “I’m not taking that. Nah.” So she said I should start taking it, and then in me old rocking stopped very quickly.

Prav Solanki:
At what point did the sort of seriousness of… What point did reality kick in?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, it’s when I got home, really. Because in the hospital, you’re in this cocooned environment, and in the little steps and there’s always somebody worse off than you. That guy opposite me was worse off than me. He was an older chap, and he’d had a terrible motorbike accident, and his legs were smashed, absolutely smashed to bits. And so far so that I know him. I still keep in touch with him now. He’s had one of them amputated now, because they couldn’t fix it. Well, that’s all these years after the event, he said he just had it amputated.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So there’s always people worse off than yourself, but at the same time, you’re in this very cocooned environment. You’ve got people coming and caring for you, from nurses, giving you a bed bath, to getting you all your meals on time. And it’s hospital food, but it’s still food that you get given, and you just have to eat it and then just lay on your bed again. So then when I got home and all I wanted to do was lay on my bed in my room, and I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to do anything. I felt comfortable, felt secure. I felt safe. The anxiety was there on me, straight away. And we took the first walk around the block and my hands were in… I was in things, I was all braced up.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And I was walking around. And I’m not yawning because I’m tired. I’m yawning because this is making me anxious, and I yawn when I’m anxious. Walking around block. I’m this fit lad who’d been running bloody marathons and cycling ultra long distance, I was this shell. This shell walking around. I was a timid little shell. And I was walking around with Rebecca and we went back to the house and I was beyond tears, which is like good. And I just knew, and I just thought, I’m not going to do dentistry again. I’m not doing dentistry again. Believe it or no, I won’t because of this, which looked awful. It looked so awful.

Dominic O’Hooley:
It was making people gape when they looked at it, because this is before I had it closed up and it had that big graft on it. It’s a horrible looking thing. It’s like a R 18 video. But it were this that were the problem, because I’m lefthanded. I’m a bit ambidextrous when I work, but left hand dominant, and no feelings till middle finger, index finger on my thumb. Oh, none. None. I couldn’t pick a fork up. I couldn’t pick a bloody fork up. Couldn’t open my front door. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t pick a coin off a table at all. Not a chance. Couldn’t button my own shirts.

Prav Solanki:
Was it just limp? What…?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No, just no feeling.

Prav Solanki:
No feeling?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No feeling. So you’re not aware of anything.

Prav Solanki:
Right.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Thumping it and such. It’s awful. And it took six months, and at six months it was still very little feeling, and it was a bit. But I thought, “It’s not happening. I’m not going to be a dentist again. I’m going to have to start doing teaching, and I better start being a bit nicer because I won’t get any… I’m not going to be coming [inaudible 01:22:47]. So anyway, nearly exactly six months after, started getting a bit of feeling back, and within six weeks, 90% went back.

Prav Solanki:
Wow.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And it’s a hundred percent back, and it is a hundred percent, finest touch, it’s back. And that’s given me this thing that I didn’t have. It’s going to sound a bit trite, this, but it’s given me this thing that I love. I love doing dentistry. I love doing really, really nice surgery. It’s given me the opportunity to do it again. So I’m grasping it with both hands. Well maybe not with that finger, but I’m doing it, and I’m taking it forward this time. And I have. And I’ve also used it as a sort of set point for a few things in my life. And I don’t want this to be an inspirational story, because it isn’t, but there’s definitely elements of, sometimes things happen and you’ve got the opportunity to almost have a little tiny bit of a rebirth, in some ways.

Prav Solanki:
So what do you mean by a new set point? Or how your dentistry’s changed, or you grabbed things? Is it like you’ve got a second wind in dentistry?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Second wind in dentistry, second work life balance orientation, understanding that working six days a week, chasing this, whatever you’re chasing, chasing detritus, chasing [inaudible 01:24:11], they’re all just rubbish. Nah. Think about it. You got one life. There’s nothing after it, in my view. You’re going to leave memories. That’s it. Influence what you can influence in a good way. And just try and remember that these things that you do, these interactions you have with people, these moments you have, these are all part of the things that’ll never be repeated. So just try and take them a bit more seriously, in some ways.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And at the same time, also just try and just… One thing I’ve never been able to do is apply the filter. I’ve just applied it a wee bit more, a little bit, not great, but better, most of the time, not always. And just try and, I suppose… Love to say I’m a better person. I’m not, but I just get thinking, it could have just been that four days where I didn’t no remember anything. That could have been it forever.

Dominic O’Hooley:
My last memory might have been this weird looking school near Wyke, or looking at a set of lights and thinking, bonus that they’re green, foot down. That could have been my last memory in my life.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah. And everything else is a bonus after that?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No, not quite as one sentence as that. It’s not as simple as that. But, yeah. But it’s a bit more complicated. There’s almost an anger I won’t kill, sometimes. There weren’t time to… I don’t even know why that is, but there’s all sorts. It’s a very complex sort of set of feelings you feel. There’s almost a, oh, you put me back in the game, did you?

Prav Solanki:
Thanks for that.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Sort of, yeah. Thanks for that. You knew I had it off of me. Thanks. But that’s stupid, in a way.

Prav Solanki:
And so how has your career changed? So you’ve obviously readdressed your work life balance. You’re not chasing this, whatever it is, we’re all chasing, or seem to be chasing. But I’ve noticed, well, I’ve just seen snippets of it, that you seem to be doing a bit of teaching now?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
I don’t know if you were doing that before.

Dominic O’Hooley:
I was a bit, but I’ve discovered, I think, a few things I’ve discovered about myself. One is I’m actually a better teacher than I thought I was, and I can use my ability to be fairly erudite, and fairly… I can get quite articulate. I can use that in a way to… I think an artistic thing is I can pick how to do it with different people. So it works, and I think, “Right, I’ve got to embrace this gift a little bit.” The other thing is I’m a bit of a standup comedian, so I’m very ad lib. I always have been. And I think that brings something new to the learning environment a little bit, because it’s very easy for it to go a bit too dry. So being able to just get people engaged by laughter.

Prav Solanki:
Wake them up a bit?

Dominic O’Hooley:
It wakes them up, and also because I’m a risk taker and a lawbreaker, I really like putting people on… Like for example, at the workshops I did here, one of my little gambits I had was that I’d be there basically watching, Riz, who was the guy who was doing the fantastic, fantastic-

Prav Solanki:
Riz [inaudible 01:27:52] got a lot of time for Riz.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Riz, top guy, but a beautiful surgeon. Well, surgeon. But he was doing what he does, and the vast majority of the room were totally engaged with him. But a couple candidates, a couple of people were on their phones on and off. And you always find that, and I’m guilty of it and we’re all guilty of it. Riz is guilty of it. We’re all guilty of it. Well, I thought, “Right. Here we go.” So I just clocked him and I thought, “Right.” Anyway, so when I did my own, first thing I did is I got up and says, “Well, what I did, well, Riz was… I was listening to him, but I was also studying you. And I noticed two of you were on your phones. And guess which ones of you are going to get the difficult questions?”

Dominic O’Hooley:
And one of them threw the phone on the table. It was just funny. But as I say, in some ways you’ve got to judge your audience because you’ve got to think, “Right. Well they can take it, these two people can take this. They’re not going to get upset. They’re big enough and ugly enough to take it.” And it’s going to break it in a different way. You’re going to actually break the ice, and you’re going to start this dynamic going on that people are going to think, “Oh, he could do something slightly unexpected, so I better listen.”

Prav Solanki:
Keep them on their toes.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Absolutely. And I think there were other ways, that breaking up the hands on between different sections and having hands on within, rather than doing it all at the end. That’s [inaudible 01:29:11] as well. But yeah. So going back to your central point. Yeah, work life balance. The number of days I do clinical dentistry is reduced. The quality of the work I’m doing, I’m trying to really take it out. I’m thinking, in some ways, I’ve got this chance. Going back to, I’ve got this chance every day as a bonus, I need to be pushing the boundaries. It’s all very well, the GDC encouraging us to de-skill. Well, not encouraging us, but we’ve become de-skilled because we’re frightened. No. We are a medical profession, medicine, dentistry, the rest of it doesn’t progress unless people push the boundaries. If you don’t push the boundaries, we won’t have had heart transplant.

Dominic O’Hooley:
We won’t have had anything. We won’t have dental implant. So we’ve got to do it. And the more people start doing it, the more we realise that, yes, that’s the ethos of being a scientist. So that’s central to what I do now, which is that with appropriate consent and with the type of patients I get on with… Because I’m good at saying no as well now, is that the type of people I get on with, the scientific type patients that I like, and they like me, and we’ve gone on this journey together and they know there’s a risk involved. This is a treatment with a higher risk. However, the potential reward’s higher as well. But we are a team for this treatment. And when we do this treatment, you, I’m giving you this treatment in your hands to look after for a few weeks, while it’s really, really, really fragile.

Dominic O’Hooley:
And if you can do that, we’ve got a very good chance. But I’m not expecting that you may do it, because it’s quite hard to do it as well. You’re not allowed to bite on that tooth for five weeks, six weeks. And that’s hard to do in the day to day.

Prav Solanki:
Of course it is.

Dominic O’Hooley:
So yeah. It’s become to me, it’s become a real, a chance to do stuff that’s… And that seems to have appealed to people. And it’s allowed me to enhance my teaching a little bit and it’s allowed me to give, I suppose, a different opinion in a way. Because I suppose it’s this disrupting thing again.

Prav Solanki:
What do you prefer, the doing, or the teaching?

Dominic O’Hooley:
Both. I can’t-

Prav Solanki:
Can’t decide?

Dominic O’Hooley:
No. No.

Prav Solanki:
Can’t split?

Dominic O’Hooley:
And when I’m doing, I’m often teaching, and it [inaudible 01:31:31] my dental nurse, and she’s getting taught for the 15th time the same thing. I’ll still teach it, because I like teaching when I’m doing. So that’s why I do quite a lot of videos of live surgery that I do now. And it’s become a little thing of mine, that I’ll do these videos. And they’re only short bits, but each bit of a procedure. And the patients love it.

Prav Solanki:
Do they?

Dominic O’Hooley:
And they love it for so many reasons. I mean, he’s obviously is happy. He’s happy enough to do this surgery. He’s happy enough to have it on video.

Prav Solanki:
And it’s something they would never see otherwise. Right?

Dominic O’Hooley:
They’d never see it. And so many of them want to see it, and they want a copy of it and they want to have it. It’s their surgery. It’s not really a medical legal thing. I don’t really think like that, but it’s such a great thing. I’ve had people come to me and they say, “God, that’s first time I’ve ever really watched that. You’re talking as you do it, and you’re really talking as you do it.” And I suppose it’s the autism again, isn’t it? Because it’s the ability to be able to do that and be… And that’s a bit of a gift, again. And I’m trying to use it.

Prav Solanki:
Final words.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Yeah.

Prav Solanki:
Just a bit of life advice. If you were to dish out, I don’t know, two or three bits of advice, either to your younger self or the upcoming generation.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Well, it’s not about… I suppose a few things. One would be, it’s not about what people see. It’s about what you see in the mirror. It’s your character. A bit trite, but it is your character. It’s when you push to the nth degree, it’s what you do then. It’s listening to your inner voice, and not dismissing it. Don’t dismiss your inner voice. Because if you keep dismissing your inner voice, it’ll get offended and it’ll go quiet on you. And you’ll lose the ability to really have that inner voice. That inner voice, that gut feeling, that whisper, that conscience, those are the things that keep us human, that make us. And the final bit of advice, it’d be to be kind, because I wish I’d been kinder through my life. And when I’ve seen my beautiful son, Gabriel, be kind, I’ve realised the power that he has given to Humphry and to-

Prav Solanki:
Inspirational, he is.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Very, very much so. And just this almost spiritual level of care that just-

Prav Solanki:
Selflessness.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Cannot put it in words really, but it’s a lovely thing. And you know what a credit that he’s such a lovely young man and you know I’m so proud of him. And don’t matter if he becomes a captain of industry or he does nothing else. He’s set in stone for me.

Prav Solanki:
Yeah. Thanks, Dom.

Dominic O’Hooley:
All right.

Prav Solanki:
It’s been wonderful. I know I said I was going to steal you for an hour. I don’t actually know how much time we’ve spent, but it’s flown by like that. Brilliant. Thank you.

Dominic O’Hooley:
Oh, thanks very much. It’s been great. I mean-

Prav Solanki:
Come here.

Prav Solanki:
Thank you, buddy.

About Prav

Prav is a healthcare business growth consultant and dental practice owner who loves helping businesses and individuals to develop and grow.