Archive for February, 2009


February 26, 2009

It had to be too good to be true.

The great start to the recovery from the operation took a bit of a blow at the weekend when my leg became extremely painful  and I couldn’t bear to put any weight on it.

When the nurse came to change the dressings on Sunday she put the wind up me by calling  SAMU (almost the equivalent of 999 for ambulance) because she suspected the possibility of thrombosis.

SAMU rang back to say the duty doctor would be round within half and hour. At least they weren’t going to cart me off to hospital.

It was the GP from a village about 30 kilometres away who arrived, just a little after thirty minutes later. He examined my leg and said he didn’t think it was thrombosis but he wrote out prescriptions for a double dose of anticoagulant injections and stronger painkillers. The bill for his 10 minute visit?  76 euros!!  Yes, it’s double rate for a weekend emergency and higher travel allowance.

As things didn’t improve a great deal and I was confused by the contradictory instructions – “walk as much as you can” from the surgeon and “don’t move” from the doc at the weekend, I rang our GP on Tuesday and she came round.

After poking my tender limb she agreed that it didn’t seem like thrombosis but she rang to get me an appointment at the ‘phlebologue’ to make sure, together with a prescription for another blood test.

“Keep your feet up until it’s time to go to the doctor this afternoon.” were her parting words as she pocketed her cheque for 32 euros.

So just before four o’clock I was limping into the surgery in town and making my way up to the second floor in the lift.

A long and uncomfortable wait ended when a bright young doctor called my name and led me into his room.

He investigated the offending leg with his ultrasound and was happy to try and explain, in simple terms, how the blurred images represented a cross section showing where the veins used to be. They were now filling with blood which would eventually disperse but meanwhile, the bruising would be painful.

It transpired he had lived in the Midlands for sometime and spoke good English. He was also most kind and thoughtful, taking care and apologising when he had to hurt me and allowing me time to rub the balm on my leg before helping me to replace the stocking (always a painful operation!).  We paid his secretary 75 euros before taking our leave.  This was becoming a hellishly expensive problem but fingers crossed most of it will be reimbursed.

It does feel a bit easier today but always seems worse in the evenings.

I’ll try to have more cheerful things to write about next time.

A short stay in Hospital(part 2)

February 20, 2009

No doubt there are strict hygiene rules in all hospitals nowadays and I remember having to have a shower in betadine (antiseptic) before the cataract operations, but this week I was informed that before being allowed in the hospital bed I was to have a shower and wash my hair in the stuff.

It’s not that I disagree with such rules, it just seemed odd that they weren’t bothered about my hair for an operation on my eyes but when they were dealing with my legs it was important.

So I duly ruined my carefully blo-dried hairstyle in favour of a bedraggled ‘naturally dried betadine look’.

Various people came in and out, including the surgeon who told me I must have another betadine shower at 7a.m. but the operation probably wouldn’t be until 10.30.

There I was at a few minutes past 7, soaping myself with the yellow (but non-staining) liquid when an aide soignante opened the door brandishing a thermometer.

“Oh, you’re having your shower” she exclaimed. Well, what else did she expect me to do in there? She jammed the thing in my proffered ear and called out the result to someone outside.

I had orders to put on the gown and some stretchy knickers but NOT to get into bed until they had changed all the sheets, so I paced the room wandering if I dare put my sanitized bottom on one of the chairs or not.

Eventually they put on clean sheets and I was back in bed. But not for long. In came the doctor with her black felt tip pen.  She asked me to stand up and then drew wiggly lines all over my left leg.

“Hm. There’s some work here.” she smiled to herself. “They’ll probably come for you about 10.30, maybe before or maybe later if there’s an emergency”, were her parting words.

And it wasn’t yet 8 0’clock.

It must have been just after 10 o’clock when they came, gave me some tablets (fortunately small) to swallow and wheeled me and my bed into a lift and down to the theatre block.

There was what seemed like a fairly long wait in a wide corridor during which people passed by saying “Bonjour”, and then the anaesthetist came over. Although I didn’t feel consciously nervous I was shaking like a leaf.

“Don’t worry”, he said, “I’ll give you something to relax you” and he fussed about to find a vein to insert a canular for a drip.

The doctor leaned over next, smiling, and announced it wouldn’t be long now. They were just ‘spring cleaning’ the theatre and then it would be my turn.

So in we went. I’ve never had an epidural before and didn’t know what to expect. Yes, I felt the injection after being warned that that was the ‘worst bit’ and then I was aware that people were tapping my legs and tickling my feet but I couldn’t move them.

The operation seemed to take ages and I could feel them doing things and moving my leg about but there was absolutely no pain. When the surgeon peeped over the dividing  wall of paper to tell me she had finished I was aware of someone lifting my leg up high and wrapping it up. Most weird.

Then, later, in the recovery room, someone asked if I could wiggle my toes and I found that I could, so they took me back to my room.

“You mustn’t have any water for two hours” the nurse said, “and you are not to get out of bed until tomorrow morning.”

When I’m a bit stressed my bladder goes into overdrive so it wasn’t long before I needed the bedpan.

Despite the welcoming remark, “This is the bell. Feel free to use it whenever you want.” I couldn’t help noticing that the staff were not too quick to respond so once the bedpan was in place I let it stay there for the next  wee as well and waited till someone came in for something else to ask them to remove it.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad experience but I have to go through it again for the other leg in the Autumn.

A short stay in hospital

February 19, 2009

Bear has shingles but he still insisted on accompanying me to Chirugerie A on Monday afternoon.

We took the lift to the fourth floor and followed the directions to be welcomed by a young girl dressed in white (but it was difficult to know whether she was a nurse or not as everyone seems to be dressed the same ).

She went into the office and I heard someone say ‘Room 426’ so she led us aong the corridor and, lo and behold, despite signing up for a single room this was a double.

“Sorry, there aren’t any  singles available.” she informed me.

Two more nurses came in (I know they were nurses because I was near enough to read their name badges this time) and took my temperature and blood pressure (194 over 112!!!)

“Oh la la. You are very worried.”

Well, I didn’t think I was but that was the indisputable proof.

You can have your own phone line connected by paying 3 euros (minimum) at the Admissions Office so I went down to do that leaving Bear in the armchair between the two beds.

He was practically asleep by the time I got back and so didn’t hear all the questions  on the admissions form – allergies, past operations and a long list of food likes and dislikes.

Heaven knows why they went through that last rigmarole because even though I liked everything in theory, in practice I might not have fancied eating it. Hospital food is produced for economy first and health second. Any taste considerations come way behind if the two meals I experienced were typical:

Monday dinner: pumpkin soup  (passable)

                                  breaded fish (a bit off in my opinion, especially the last part which I had to spit out) and leeks in cheese sauce which were too tough to chew.

                                  a dry roll, a babybel cheese and a kiwi completed the meal and there was no offer of a coffee afterwards.

Tuesday’s dinner was no better:  vegetable soup, a dried up chicken leg with unadorned pasta,  roll, cheese and a pear compote.

It was surprising that they did not bring  round hot drinks at all during the day but they did offer a ‘goodnight tisane’ at around 10 o’clock.

Breakfast was due to be served between 7.30 and 8.30 but ours arrived well after nine, served by a lady who could only work at a slow pace – or maybe she had done the entire hospital single handed and so was rather tired by the time she got to us.

“What would you like for breakfast?” she asked languidly.

“Do you have a ’tisane’? I asked.

“No, but you can have tea.”

“I’d like milky coffee please.” (I don’t like tea) and some bread but no butter thank you.”

She brought a plastic bowl containing passable coffee and on the tray was a hard roll, butter and jam. I wonder if anyone got what they asked for.

So much for the food, but as it’s a long time since I’ve experienced a stay in an English hospital – as a patient or a visitor –  so I’m not sure how it compares.

I’ll tell you about the operation tomorrow.

Husband Exchange?

February 9, 2009

There are times when I wish I could trade in my two charges for another two cats.

This morning I crawled around the the supermarket with Bear in tow. It’s a real pain shopping with him because he loves looking round and poking about while I’d much prefer to put the goods in the trolley and get through the checkout A.S.A.P. 

For this reason I contrived to do some of the monthly shop with him and then do the larger part with Jay this afternoon. It meant using the excuse that I had to go to the Caisse Primaire (Health/Social Security Office) to sort out papers with Jay and update my Carte Vitale at the same time.

Bear accepted the fact that I was going out again without him with relatively good grace but had a tantrum later to make up for it. First, as there was no sound on the TV he accused CC of making it go wrong. I think it was more a case of weather conditions as it responded to my cure of unplugging it and starting again.

Then our neighbour’s son turned up on the doorstep. He was feeling lonely because his mum had gone to visit his dad in Intensive Care in Reims. He is at a special school for young people with ‘behavioural problems’ but I think he is so drugged that he is always very quiet and docile. On the other hand, despite his 18 years, he is still very immature. When he learned we were going shopping he asked if he could come with us. Naturally Jay and I said yes but Bear scowled when he heard.

But it was  Whale who decided to bug me while I was in the middle of Carrefour by phoning to say his computer was playing up and perhaps I should buy him a ‘new lead’. In fact, it just ignores the fact that there’s a mouse plugged in sometimes and you have to reboot it (more than once) before it decides to accept it.

When we got back home Francois helped Jay unload the car and then I gave him a hot chocolate and some biscuits. By that time his mum was home and off he went.

Bear then grumbled about him coming round ‘every day’. OK, so he was here yesterday (for the same reason) but he’ll be back at school on Wednesday after an extra few days off following a skiing holiday (with the school). I think it’s to give the teachers time to recover.

A morning at the hospital

February 4, 2009

No, don’t worry, it wasn’t a case of A and E, just an appointment.

But, it is an example of the difference between the French and English systems when it comes to having a routine operation.

My GP (medecin traitant) decided that it was probably time my varicose veins were treated when she noticed what I thought was a long standing bruise on my ankle. (I’ve had  the actual protruding veins for years but as they don’t hurt I’ve learned to live with them).

She sent me to the ‘phlebologue’ to check out my circulation and then to the specialist at the hospital. She (for it is a lady)  doesn’t do veins until the winter and so I was booked in for February 16th with instructions to go and see the anaesthetist a week or so beforehand.

That’s where I was this morning.

The appointment was for 9.45 but the secretary had told me to report to outpatients first so I arrived early. Despite problems with my Carte Vitale, which had refused to allow itself to be updated, (it did this last year and I had to go to the social security centre and queue for ages so that it could be done ‘manually’) lots of papers were shuffled around and stuck into a file I was eventually given a form and directions to find the anaesthetists’ department.

“Go back to the main corridor, turn left and it’s on the second floor. Oh and afterwards you’ll have to go to admissions and book your room.”

The hospital is in the final stages of its rebuild and signs are not totally clear so I steered Bear into the nearest lift,  pressed 2 and crossed my fingers. It was good of him to come with me but he kept protesting that i didn’t know where I was going and got quite nasty when I bit back.

By the time we reached the waiting room with instructions to report to the secretary first, he wasn’t talking to me and sat himself down outside.

Shame, because he missed the chance to ogle the the secretary’s cleavage. Fortunately for her the heating was very efficient.

Anyway, she gave me a questionnaire to fill in with a green pen but apologised as all the boards were in use.

“Never mind. I’ll lean on a magazine.”

There wasn’t time to complete the form, let alone read the sheet describing all the risks of having an anaesthetic before a charming nurse called me to follow her.

Bear got up and followed us into a room where I was asked to take off my ‘top’ clothes, undo my bra and lie on the bed for a cardiogram, BP and blood sample.  She was very kind and gentle and chatted about why we had come to live in France.

“Monsieur doesn’t speak French then?” she asked after Bear had ignored her efforts to include him in the conversation.

Back in the waiting room there was barelt time to sit down before the doctor called my name. Back down the corridor we trotted, clutching papers, coat, scarf and handbag.

The doctor was a really pleasant man who asked all the questions on my paper and wrote the answers on his own sheet. He had all the time in the world and actually seemed interested in my small health problems.

Then he asked what kind of anaesthetic I would like.

“What do you advise?”

“I don’t suggest anything” he replied. “It’s for you to decide what’s best for you.”

Despite this, I had the distinct impression that he was subtley willing me to opt for an epidural. I’ve never had problems with a general anaesthetic but thought I’d give it a go.

At this stage  – after letting me struggle with French medical vocabulary – he started talking very good English.

“Now you tell me!” I chided.

He said he looked forward to seeing me again soon, we shook hands and set off to find ‘Admissions’.

Hospital corridors are notoriously long wherever you are but it seemed to go on forever, with Bear slowing down drastically.

We passed from the old building to the new and were amazed at the height and width of the main thoroughfare. It was like walking though an empty airport.

Admissions was well labelled and we went through the door to find the ‘take a ticket and queue’ system in operation. Still there wasn’t long to wait and our number lit up telling us to go to booth number three.

The lady at the desk complained about my non-updated Carte Vitale again but shuffled and stuck more papers, asked me if I wanted a single room (for which I had to fill in and sign a form) before finally telling me all was in order and I just had to report to “Chirurgerie A” on the given day.

This will be my first experience of the new hospital in the district of Manchester in Charleville. I’ll let you know how it goes.