Monday, July 5th
So here I am in a French hospital hoping against hope that this is a dream and I’ll soon wake up in the cottage…. but no such luck. Craig arrived at 8 am after only 3 hours of sleep and we waited for the doctor to arrive. Dr Jacques Afriat is an Orthopedic Surgeon who speaks English very well. He told us that the break on the Fibula isn’t too serious and would normally just require a cast, but the break on the tibia is different. It would heal with a cast, but would be prone to arthritis so surgically pinning it might be the better choice. He said it was “5 of one; 5 of the other” so, how to make the decision? He pulled out his cell phone and asked who he should call, “God, Mohammed or Buddha”? Craig opted for all three but instead Dr Afriat scheduled a CT Scan for a better view of the break.
The CT scan was done in the afternoon and Dr Afriat went over the results later that evening. He said that if I were older or not active, he would probably settle for casting the leg, but since I am “still a young woman with a lot left to do,” he thought that surgery was the best option (at this point I knew that my doctor was, indeed, a very smart man). He also warned me that after pinning the bones, I would need a special card to get through airport security or it would be “off to Guantanamo” for me. After noticing on my chart that it was my anniversaire, he sang “Happy Birthday” to me and told me I’d be his first surgery the next morning.
The nurses and other hospital aides weren’t as fluent in English as the doctors were, but between my pigeon-French and my Berlitz dictionary, we were able to communicate. They were all very attentive to my needs and no doubt felt sorry for my plight. Things are different over here, though. Although I thought it would help with the pain and swelling, I was declined ice for my leg because I was told I wouldn’t feel it due to the wrappings around my leg.
A young woman who had her wisdom teeth extracted was my roommate for the day. She arrived in the morning and left in the evening. Friends and family stayed with her the whole day, chatting and laughing as though they were at home. They were very solicitous of me….always saying “Bon jour Madame” when they entered and “Au revoir” when they left.
Tuesday, July 6th
I was taken down to surgery right on schedule. I had to move from my hospital bed to an “interim” bed and then to a surgical bed…not an easy task with one non-functioning leg and no upper body strength. Other than that, it’s all a blur. I woke up around 11 am when a young man told me that my surgery was over. I had already been placed in my hospital bed so I was then transported back to my room. Craig arrived too late to see me before surgery, but was waiting for me on my return. My Xrays and CT scan were laying on my table….that’s another difference; in France, this information belongs to the patient. So we took a look at them and saw the fix that had been put in place – two pins in my tiba – ow!
I have a new roommate today; a woman about my age who seems to have had a goiter operation. Her friends and family, too, spend most of the day with her and are just as solicitous to me as the other family was. She speaks no English but has informed me repeatedly that the food sucks.
Dr Afriat came by in the early evening to tell us the operation had been sucessful and to show us the xrays. He says it’s “100%” fixed now. I sure hope he’s right.
Wednesday, July 7th
Not much happened here today. My roommate went home this afternoon. The insurance company calls everyday to see how I’m doing. Caryl and Sue check in daily to ask if I need any assistance. So far, despite the language barrier, all is going well. The nurses are now adept at picking up my dictionary and looking up the words they need. Some of them are practicing their high school English and are very pleased with their progress….as am I….I always let them know how very much I appreciate their efforts.
Dr Afriat came by to say he would be casting the leg tomorrow and then I could either stay in the hospital or return home. He also asked what I thought of their fine French cuisine. I told him it was better than US hospital food. His response? “Of course, anything is better than US hospital food”. His humor has helped to make this situation a little more bearable.
The IV cathether in my hand started leaking so it was removed and I’m on oral pain medications now. What will tomorrow bring?
Thursday, July 8th
A new roommate arrived last night….an elderly woman who broke her hip. Sleep was difficult because Madame was having very vocal nighmares all night. She seemed to have multiple personalities as differing voices would be talking…sometimes at the same time! Need to check to see if her name is Sybil.
Morning comes early as I’m roused for my “plebitis” shot. Madame is coherent for periods of time then falls back into nightmares, voices and random arm movements…perhaps she’s weaving a tapestry in her dreams? Her family stopped by; she’s scheduled for surgery tomorrow. They expressed concern over my broken leg, but I fear their convalescence will be more difficult than mine.
A nurse arrived to take my temperature (under the arm) and blood pressure (listed as one number…12.8 = 120/80). With no English skills whatsoever, she let me know that my husband needs to bring me a towel and washcloth; guess I’m using too many of their paper “serviettes”.
A technician then came in an removed the drain from my foot….”un, deux, trois…voila!” What a strange feeling to have something snaking through your foot, but now I’m officially removed from all hospital bondages. The nurses have determined that I’m no longer to be bed-ridden. After a sponge bath, I’m put in my real nightgown and moved to the chair next to my bed. Bedpans are also a thing of the past as they now encourage me to use a walker to hop to the toilet.
Craig came in with the joyful news that I’m a grandmere! Our grandson, River Christian, was born on 7/7. Even though I’m a continent away, the li’l guy is tugging on my heartstrings. Wish we didn’t have to wait ’til September to meet him.
The ecstacy of this news was short-lived. After lunch, while I was still held prisoner in my chair, Madame (all 4’8″ of her) pushed her lunch tray aside (no easy task…they weigh a ton and it usually takes the efforts of both Craig and I to move mine), rose up, swung her legs over the bed (broken hip and all) and took off her hospital gown. I frantically pushed the call button (which only sometimes provides assistance) and started calling “Help, HELP, AIDEZ MOI”. I was finally able to get the attention of an aide walking by. She called for assistance and two nurses were able to calm Madame down and get her dressed. They assured her that her husband wasn’t waiting for her downstairs. The peace was brief as Madame started the whole process over again. I pressed the call button while I asked Madame repeatedly to “Rester, Madame, Rester” (Stay, Madame, Stay). Despite her drug-influenced incognizance, the thought of being told to “Stay” by some upstart American really outraged her and she started a verbal barrage like I’ve never heard before….I don’t have a clue what she said but it couldn’t have been good.
Not long after that, the nurses came in and told me to dress; the doctor would cast my leg at 3 pm and then I’d be discharged. Although this didn’t agree with what Dr Afriat had told me, after a day with Madame, I was more than ready to go home. Craig helped me dress, my favorite nurse put me in a wheelchair and took me down to have my leg set. There were a number of police in the hallway. The nurse told us that a “druggie” case had come in. Dr Afriat showed up right on time, set my leg in a bright green cast, told me to put no weight on it for a week and said he’d make an appt for next Friday to perhaps take off this cast put on an appliance that could be removed at night. He had previously told me that I’d need “cannes Anglais” (English canes) for walking. They don’t use under-the-arm crutches here; cannes Anglais support you on your forearms (remember, dear reader, that I have no upper body strength). After the paperwork was completed, we were totally on our own…Craig and I were left to figure out how to get me off the table and on a wheelchair. We were careful but successful; outside the hospital, a large number of people were milling about. We figured they were perhaps evacuated due to the “druggie” situation. After manuvering me into the car, we were on the way to the Pharmacie to pick up cannes Anglais and the medications the doctor had ordered. Craig found out that one of the medications consisted of injections of subcutaneous heparin….to prevent plebitis, of course. Neither of us was thrilled with the thought of him injecting me everyday but “when in Rome….” or, in this case, France.
There was a Boulangerie and an Epicerie near the Pharmacie, so Craig picked up bread and groceries and we headed back to the cottage. During the ride home, I tried to visualize how I would get up those stairs – with no experience with “cannes Anglais,: no upper body strength and without putting any weight on my foot. The best solution wasn’t pretty, but it worked. I went up the stairs backwards on my derriere. Whew! That was hard work. Now to get situated in the cottage. The sofa and the small toilette are in close proximity and on the same level, so they will be my domain for the next week.
Bonne nuit, chers amis et la famille