I may have slated French after-sales service, but for the health service I have only bouquets. They have always done us very well. From minor ailments to severe burns, sub-dural haematomas and suspected burst spleens, the diagnosis has always been swift and treatment immediate and successful. The hospitals are spotless, no more than two people (of the same sex) to a room, and the food is good (you even get a choice of red or white wine with your meals!)
When we need an appointment we phone the doctor (he doesn’t have a secretary), and will normally see him within 24 hours. If it’s urgent, straight away.
In case of need he will personally phone a specialist to make an early appointment. He speaks English, as do many of the medical professionals. Consultations are never rushed, there’s always time to chat about the weather, politics and the general state of the world.
As far as I can remember, I never had a blood test during the 25 years I lived in England. Since moving to France, I’ve had at least two a year. They are carried out routinely to check cholesterol levels and thyroid behaviour. We can either go to a local laboratory, or ask a local nurse to call at the house, which she will do alarmingly early – any time from 7.00 am onwards.
The nurse who came yesterday was a new face, and before she started I warned her that it was always a struggle to find a vein as mine are virtually invisible. As tight as the tourniquet, as hard as I clench my fist, as fiercely as I mentally will the vein to appear, and as much as she taps, the veins remain invisible.
After much clenching and tapping and tightening a thread-like vein appeared in my upper arm, and using a baby needle she managed to pierce it. Nothing happened for some time. We both stared at the little bottle, willing the blood to flow, until eventually it yielded a sluggish trickle.
It took quite a while to fill all six little bottles, and while we waited we chatted. I told her of the doctor who had once tried in vain (ha ha, unintentional pun!) in four places before finding a vein, and who had finally clasped my head gently in his hands and told me: “Madame, if ever you are in a bad accident, when the medics arrive you must tell them to go straight into your jugular, because if not, it will be too late and you will die.”
So I guess in that event it will be important to remain conscious to impart that vital information. 🙂
The nurse said that she used to work with the ambulance service, and that it was well known that all English women have abnormally small veins. So when called to a motor accident, if the vehicle was English-registered and there was an injured female passenger, the medics always went directly for the jugular.
Now while that may seem comforting to English females, what if they are driving a French-registered car and are unconscious, so that the medics don’t know they are English? It makes you think. Perhaps we need to have a tattoo on our jugulars, saying “Anglaise, piquėz ici, SVP”
Getting back to the nurse, she said she was mortified that she would leave me with a large bruise. Brushing aside my assurance that it was normal and didn’t bother me, she kept apologising as if it was a stain on her professionalism, rather than my mingy blood vessels.
She was right when she said there would be a big bruise.
The number to call in France in case of a medical emergency is 15 from a landline, 112 from a mobile phone.
One last thing, for those whose French is not fluent. If you suspect a heart attack, the magic words are CRISE CARDIAQUE – a cardiac crisis. It is not “mal au coeur,” or “mal de coeur” – which, inexplicably, mean “feeling nauseous” or “wanting to be sick”, and will not scramble the emergency services. It could be a matter of life or death, so please remember.
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