Many thanks to all the kind people who sent “Get well soon” messages and emails. I am trying my best. 🙂
If I had to summarise in two words the experience of being an outpatient for a day in a French hospital, those two words would be “Production line.”
Report as instructed to Outpatients. Prod ticket machine for ticket. Sit in waiting room until ticket number appears on monitor. Report to designated cubicle. Hand over paperwork, be fitted with paper bracelet and told to re-wait in waiting room.
Observe a continual traffic of trolleys carrying passengers in and out of lifts.
After ten minutes, accompany “hostess” to sterile little room with glass sliding door. Sit there and wait some more.
After 15 minutes, friendly nurse announces time for op, invites me to undress, change into navy blue shapeless paper frock and climb into bed. I may watch TV, if I wish, and can push a buzzer for attention. Take two small pills to relax me.
40 minutes later stern man slides open glass door, asks my name and invites me to clamber onto a trolley. “Anglaise?” he asks. “Oui,” I reply. End of conversation. Wheels me through the waiting room, past the waiting people, and into the lift.
Lift drops us to lower floor, and stern man wheels me round bends and corners, left and right, and finally stops in a corridor where he puts paper slippers on my feet and a paper hat on my head, and disappears.
Exquisitely pretty little nurse asks my name, date of birth, and whether I have any allergies. She goes away.
A moderately pretty lady comes and ask my name, date of birth, and whether I have any allergies. She goes away as well.
After a few minutes the very pretty little nurse returns and tries to stick a needle into my arm. She tells me I have very small veins, but she keeps trying.
An unseen being pulls the trolley into the operating theatre, and I am invited to slither from the trolley to the table, and I hope the frock hasn’t come apart at the back as I do so. There is no sign of George Clooney. I think they’ve got me here under false pretences.
Somebody puts something around my wrists and ankles, and suckers on my chest. The pretty nurse is still fighting with the needle, and puts a plastic mask over my face for a few seconds. She asks if the needle is hurting me. I say it doesn’t exactly hurt, but there is a strong burning sensation. She asks if my head is spinning yet. I say no. She takes off the mask and tells me to keep breathing.
I am very, very cold. Shaking uncontrollably. A new nurse asks if I am in pain. I say no, and she goes away. I shiver so hard the trolley is rattling. Another nurse comes and asks if I am in pain, and I say I am freezing. She covers me in what looks like a blanket made of tissue paper, and puts some kind of tube into it, and it fills with warm air. I am aware of a cuff on my arm monitoring my blood pressure every few minutes.
As I defrost, I open my eyes and see that I am in a long ward with about 30 other people on trolleys. One person is wrapped in a golden aluminium blanket and is coughing a lot. A group of nurses are insistently urging somebody else to open their eyes. Men in white come every few minutes and wheel away a person on a trolley. It all feels just a little surreal, like a science fiction film. It reminds me of The Island, which we had watched a few days earlier. (Good film if you haven’t seen it.)
The stern man comes and wheels me away, through the corridors, into the lift, past the waiting people in the waiting room, back into the little room with the glass sliding door. He tells me to shift from the trolley to the bed, and away he goes.
Once again I am very cold, and hope somebody will come soon. A nurse comes and asks if I am in pain. I say no, but very cold. She looks bemused, and says she’ll turn up the radiator to 5.
I keep falling asleep, and waking up cold. There is only a very thin cover on the bed.
The surgeon comes and looks at me, and says the operation went well, the tooth-root came out easily, and he will give me a prescription, then he goes away. I am still cold.
Some time later, I have lost track of it, a tall young male nurse comes and takes my blood pressure, and says he’ll come back and take it again shortly.
I am still attached to a drip from the back of my hand, and when the nurse comes back he asks why I also have a blob of cotton wool plastered to the inside of my elbow. I’ve no idea, but we agree that it must be because my veins are so inadequate that the first go didn’t work so they had to relocate from arm to hand.
He takes my blood pressure once more – it’s a bit low – and then he peels off the wrapping from my hand and removes the needle and puts a blob of cotton wool and a couple of plasters over the hole and asks me to press hard for a minute. He gives me the prescription from the surgeon, and says I can get dressed and go home, which I do.
I usually recover very quickly from anaesthetics, but this time it’s taken me a couple of days. I’ve felt completely drained and exhausted and am just now coming back to life.
I’ve got a sack of medication – antibiotics, pain killers, anti-swellings, and a special mouthwash. I can feel the stitches in my gum, but there isn’t any pain, and very little swelling, just some bruising around the corner of my mouth.
But … this morning a small blister came up on my face. A few more have joined it. It’s now a red patch which is tingly. I’ve just read all the warning notices that came with the medications. The mouthwash can cause convulsions in the very young, and confusion in the very old, into neither of which category I fit at present. But it can also cause reactions such as excema, because it contains ricin.
I think I’ll forgo the mouthwash from now on.