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.