Bear has not been careful with his diet for a long time. He refuses to eat many of the meals we make because they include salad or vegetables and so I often have to make him something separate that he does like – and it’s usually very high in carbohydrate.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that his diabetes is not well stabilised. The medication he takes is very bad for his kidneys so the doctor decided he must spend a few days in hospital for tests and to be put on insulin.
His appointment to present himself in ‘diabetologie’ was three 0’clock on Tuesday. Despite being very worried and having an attack of the runs he insisted on going for lunch at the local hotel on Monday and Tuesday – the condemned man’s last meals – as he put it.
When you are admitted to hospital you have to report to the ‘Bureau d’admissions’ to present your Carte Vitale and insurance cover before going to the ward. When the paperwork was completed I asked the young lady how to find the diabetic department. She didn’t know and said we’d have to ask the man at the information desk.
There was no-one at the desk so Bear waited with his suitcase while I went to look for someone to ask. I was just being given very vague directions when the chap on the desk turned up so I hurried back but didn’t make it quickly enough to beat another couple.
He dealt with their enquiry and then asked what we wanted.
“Diabetologie?” he pursed his lips. “That’s a long way – in the old hospital – and it’s not easy to find.” He paused to see what the other people waiting wanted. It was something quick so he said he’d be back to show us the way.
The suitcase was heavy so, much to Bear’s annoyance, I borrowed a wheelchair and made him sit in it with the case on his lap. We followed the man down the corridor to the old building. Then it was down one floor in the lift and into the bowels of the hospital – a dark corridor festooned with pipes of various sizes.
Then he turned left and we came to a door which, surprisingly led outside into the sunshine, across a coutyard and into the department we were looking for. I couldn’t help wondering if I’d be able to find the way out, but, looking backwards from time to time I had seen ‘sortie’ signs.
We were greeted by a very pleasant young nurse who told us the room wasn’t ready yet and we’d have to wait. There was no waiting room as such, just an area with a few chairs at one end of the corridor.
Eventually we were taken to Chambre 8, a single room (thank goodness) small but bright and airy, containing an electric bed with pristine white sheets, a bedside table with telephone, a small but highly polished wardrobe, a television, an armchair on wheels, a table and two ordinary chairs. The ‘en suite’ contained a toilet and washbasin and we were told there was a shower further down the corridor.
They gave us a few minutes to unpack and settle in and then it was a nonstop succession of people – the nurse filling in more paperwork; forms to sign for ‘next of kin’, glasses, dentures etc. and also a very important one to keep in the single room. She told us that meals are served in the diningroom, breakfast at 8, lunch round about 12.15 and dinner at 7. Then there’s ‘gouter’ about 4 o’clock when they wheel in a trolley with hot water and coffee powder and people help themselves.
Then came the dietician, a tall chap with glasses, who seemed a bit stiff and formal at first but was, actually, very friendly. First he wanted to ascertain Bear’s eating habits at home but, amazingly, didn’t seem at all concerned about the bad diet. Then he wanted to make a note of his likes and dislikes for the hospital meals. It looks as though Bear will be catered for quite well because they will let him have potatoes instead of pasta or rice – but he will have to compromise and try to eat more vegetables and salads – and soup every evening! Desserts often include yoghurt or fromage frais but he can have a sugarfree fruit compote.
The nurse came back to take his bloodpressure, temperature and bloodsugar reading and then we saw a young intern who went through his medical history and gave him a thorough examination including an ECG. She discovered a lack of sensation in his feet and said that some of the pain he has may be due to his diabetes.
The nurse came back in to look at Bear’s blood meter and check his sugar levels again as the first reading had been high. This tme it was better. I asked her when the admissions office closed as I wanted to arrange a telephone for him.
“Oh dear, it’s too late” she said. “but if you leave some money in an envelope I’ll get someone to do it for him in the morning.”
That was a relief because he wouldn’t have to wait until my next visit. To have your own private line you have to take the form given by the ward down to the admissions office and pay a minimum of 3 euros to be connected. Unused money is not refunded so it’s better not to pay too much as you can always top it up. Bear decided to start with 10 euros, and he phoned me at 9.30 next day to say they had kindly organised it for him and to let me have his number.
The television is rather expensive – 4 euros a day – but he has decided to have it. He can watch some programmes with subtitles when he gets fed up with reading.
So far, I think the experience is much better than he had feared and he seems quite cheerful.
As for the rest of us, we are taking advantage of his absence to enjoy family meals at the table accompanied by music instead of the telly and a lovely relaxed atmosphere. . . . . . . .