jeudi 23 juin 2011
Day 8 of my confinement.
I can move about more easily now, and removed the gauze coverings of my incisions. Besides Frankennavel, they look fine.

One of my (very few) complaints about french health care is the after-care instructions, that is, instructions for what to do/not to do after your hospital stay. In the US, they give you a ten page document of what to expect, what is normal, what is not normal and you should go see your doctor, what to do, how to take care of your wounds, what not to do, what to eat and drink, what not to eat and drink, etc.

Probably for insurance reasons. That way, if you screw up and re-open your stitches or something, they can say "On the after-care instructions sheet we said not to do any strenuous exercise! Not our fault!" Anyway, here in France, you have to "tirer les vers du nez" (pull the worms from the nose) to get information on when you should take the bandages off, whether the stitches have to be removed or not, when to expect the bloating to go down, etc. All I was able to eek out of the nurses was to take the bandages off after five days.
Me: Five days after what? The operation itself or my release?
Nurse: Five days.
Me: Thanks a bunch. Do I need to have a nurse remove them or are they absorable?
Nurse: Well, what kind did the doctor put in?
Me: How in the world am I supposed to know?

Ah well. Just drives me back to my generalist to find out whether I am, or am not, dying.

Alain is naturally a very funny guy, which is quite painful for me when I try as much as possible to avoid sneezing, coughing, hiccupping, soliciting my ab muscles to sit up, and above all laughing. I am continuously admonishing him "Stop it! Stop being funny! Stop making me laugh I told you! It hurts!"

I rambled back over to my doctor this afternoon so he could check on my progress and to find out whether I can or cannot accompany Alain on his trip to Portugal next week, which we have been planning for several months. He is invited to give a talk at a conference, and I am tagging along.

I got there at the Dr.'s opening time of 15:30, and there were two people in the waiting room before me. Now in France, you have to count at least 20, usually 30 minutes of wait per person ahead of you. Great, I'm in for a wait.

Another woman came in after me and hovered in the hallway, between the waiting room and the doctor's office. I could just tell she wanted to jump ahead in line.
When the patient already in the office came out, she asked the dr. if he would just sign her paper. He told her to ask us if it would be okay. She told (not asked) us that she would be quick, just needed a paper signed and went in.
The other two people were annoyed as well at her behavior. I said "I give her five minutes before I go knock on the door."

They noticed my accent and we started talking. (The usual, where are you from, why are you here, etc.)
Turns out they were a couple (Whew! cuts my waiting time in half.)
After five minutes, I went and knocked on the door. Yeah, well. Let someone punch three holes in her belly and see how well she puts up with someone jumping the line at the doctor's office.
She got the idea and left.

Dealing with the French Lesson #1: Never let someone cut in front of you at the doctor's office in France.

Even if they say it will be quick, they just need cold medicine/a form signed/whatever. They may all well and good have the intention of being quick, but when across from a medicinal ear, French will invariably do their 2nd favorite thing of all, i.e. talk about their health.

(What their 1st favorite thing to do is, I am still undecided on. Please feel free to speculate in the comments section.)

Morale of the story: I'm not dying and can go to Portugal, but need to stay out of the sun and water. Bummer, as that was a large part of the reason for me going.
lundi 20 juin 2011
Alain left this morning for his lab's annual retreat- two days in Giens of talks, presentations, and partying.
Still in pain, still bloated. I have taken to tracing the outlines of the hematomas on my belly with permanent marker, to see how it is spreading from day to day. So I'll probably survive the operation and the recovery period, only to die from marker poisoning.

I shuffled over at the S.O.S (Speed O'Snail) to the pharmacy this morning, and asked what they had for hematomas, bloating, and pain. She sold me a product called "Siligaz" for adominal bloating. Seriously, what marketing focus group decided on the name Siligaz for an adominal bloating reliever? It's just plain Sili.

She saw the loaf of sandwich bread I had just bought at Casino nearby and informed me that I shouldn't eat bread, as it has a lot of air in it. Instead, I should eat stuff like fennel. Like hell!
I decided that the morale boost of one (or five) peanut butter sandwiches far outweighed the possible slight extra bloating. Besides, I have my Siligaz.
dimanche 19 juin 2011
Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

So here I am, rattling around in our apartment, watching tv, sleeping, and moaning about the pain.

On Thursday I managed to shuffle to the mail box to send in my sick leave forms (I have decided that French Administrative officials are sadists- just got home from the hospital after being cut open? You have 48 hours to mail in the forms!) and to the pharmacy to pick up my doliprane, oh so helpful. I was amazed by the human body's ability to log tens of hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

Friday, I shuffled to our generalist doctor's office. Elderly ladies were passing me. Still bloated from the surgery. I am convinced here is what happened:
Step 1) Put patient to sleep
Step 2) Make incisions where needed
Step 3) Inflate belly with air so as to be able to see/work properly
Step 4) Insert camera/scissors
Step 5) Perform necessary surgery
Step 6) Remove instruments
Step 7) Sew up incisions.
Heck, I am no surgeon, but even I can see there is a step missing in the above procedure.
Step 6b) Deflate patient like some disgusting flesh balloon before sewing back up!

I feel like I swallowed an inner tube and it has settled around my waist, like a boa constrictor who swallows a small rodent whole and you can still see the form of the animal about midway through the snake. I can barely zip up my jeans to go on these exciting excursions, but I don't have any other options- too hot for sweatpants, plus they have a hole in the rear.

So I shuffled over to the doctor's office, with two competing thoughts in my mind:
Thought 1) We really must find a closer doctor
Thought 2) But he knows our medical history since we moved here

The doctor and mini doctor spent a good half an hour jamming their fingers into my belly, and finally concluded that I am okay, just have to deal with the pain and swelling until they pass. As long as I don't develop a fever or my belly becomes hard, I should be okay.

In a fit of sentimentality, I ordered a bouquet of roses to be sent to the nurses at the hospital, to thank them for taking care of me during my stay. I mean really, I do admire nurses. Their job must be rather difficult and often overlooked. They mopped up my vomit, mopped up me, inserted and removed catheters, gave me a bed bath, and all the rest.

Hats off to nurses!

Now the apartment is a mess, I am in desperate need of toilet paper and peanut butter, and getting tired of watching TV. I can't sleep well at night and don't even have an appetite for chocolate. Help!
vendredi 17 juin 2011
On Monday afternoon I checked into a hospital here in Marseille for a relatively minor surgery on Tuesday morning.
I carefully read through all the papers, to see if there was a "What to Bring, What not to Bring" section, but nothing. After making sure I was checked in, Alain, Mom, Dad, and I went to the hospital cafeteria for some coffee, then they headed home, and I headed back to my room.

I was unable to have a private room, so shared with a 68-year-old woman named Maurisette.
Neither of us had opted for the TV (thank goodness), so we spent Monday night reading. When it came time for the shower, I learned that towels are not supplied by the hospital. Sheets, yes. Towels, no. Fabulous.

Apparently, towels are never supplied in French hospitals. This is something you are just supposed to innately know, as it isn’t written anywhere. I would think that the hospital would supply towels, rather than have you bring your own germy towels from home, but nope. Luckily, Maurisette had an extra one which she leant me.

We went to sleep at about 10 on Monday night. At 6, they came and woke me up, as I was the first to go. I had to take my pre-operation shower with the Betadine soap, making sure to get everything (including the 'pli interfessier' as the illustration was so helpful to point out). They changed the sheets on my bed, then wheeled me down to the operating rooms. The nurses and orderlies had great fun asking where I am from, what am I doing in France, etc. etc.
I was hooked up to everything, and the anesthesiologist put the mask over my face. Every time I am put under, my last thought seems to be "I really must tell the anesthesiologist that the drugs aren't working, so that they don't cut me open while I am still awake." ZONK.

Woke up several hours later in the recovery room, being poked and prodded endlessly.
They wheeled me back up to my room around 1:30. It seems that every time I am operated on here in France, the male orderlies taking me up to my room have to comment "You are very pretty" when I am covered in iodine, in those ugly gowns, woozy, and a complete mess. This is the second time this has happened to me. I'm not sure what the appropriate response is. Gee, thanks?

My roommate was wheeled in about half an hour later; I guess she spent less time in recovery. I called mom and dad, and they came over, bearing a towel, an extra t-shirt, and peanut butter sandwiches. I'm afraid I wasn't a very good conversationalist, as I kept nodding off. They didn't stay long. I was on a morphine drip, which apparently makes some people nauseous and have hot flashes. Boy did I ever. I was completely drenched and couldn't eat a thing.
Alain stopped by after work, and they brought in my dinner, a piece of ham, some yogurt, and something covered up, I didn't even look. I couldn't even bear to look at it.

Alain left, and I tried to sleep. They took me off the morphine, but I still felt hot and nauseous. The nurses kept coming in every hour to take blood pressure, to change the IV, to take a blood sample. Ahhh!! Just let me sleep!!

Wednesday morning, Maurisette was doing fine, up and about on her own power, able to take a shower, get dressed, and pack her bag. I was still moaning in bed. Her husband came to get her, which is when the nausea overcame me. I had a plastic bag ready, but it might as well have been a sieve. The throw-up went right through the bag, all over the floor, the sheets, my legs, my slippers, my hands. Not a pretty sight. Her husband beat a hasty retreat. I rang for the nurse. What is the matter? J'ai vomit! They came and cleaned up and handed me another plastic bag marked Toxic Waste.

Maurisette checked out, glad to be getting away from me I'm sure. They cleaned up her side of the room, ready for the next patient. I'm not sure why, maybe the smells of the cleaning products, I threw up again. Again ring for the nurse. J'ai vomit encore! At least the bag held up. They took the bag and handed me a bucket, with a bag inside.

They wanted to keep me for another night, but I desperately wanted to get out of there. Mom and dad were leaving the next day, and I didn't want to be in the hospital when they left. I managed to force down some apple sauce and rambled over to the nurse's station (all the other patients and their visitors in the hall were staring at me- I must have been quite a sight, unshowered, smelling like throw up, and moving at 2 miles an hour). See, all better now! I can leave right!

The doctor came and checked on me and decided I could go. Yippee! She gave me a prescription for frickin' Doliprane. Like aspirin. I have three holes in my stomach, my belly button might never be the same again, and you give me Doliprane?
I called dad, and he took the subway down to the hospital, then we took a taxi back. It took all my force not to throw up in the taxi (toxic waste bag at the ready).

Was so glad to get home, lie on the couch, and not be poked and prodded.
dimanche 12 juin 2011

(Note: I was going through my unpublished drafts, and found this post I wrote several years ago, when we were still living in our first apartment and I didn't have a job. Thought I would publish it for your amusement.)

I wonder if anyone has ever actually gone crazy from heat. I am sure it must have happened. Here in Marseille, temperatures are flaring and tempers too.

Waiting in line at the post office- after 30 minutes and finally making it to the front of the line, a lady assisting a mentally handicapped woman comes in, walks straight to the front of the line (me) and asks "Does it bother you if we go in front of you?" Honestly, yes it bothers me. Go sit down and wait like those elderly people and that pregnant woman are doing and wait your turn! Ah well. I didn't really say anything and she jumped in line.

It made me wait a grand total of 30 seconds longer but the heat made the whole situation really annoy me. You just feel like screaming "I don't care if you are 100 years old, deaf, dumb, blind, pregnant, lost one leg in WWI and the second in WWII! I earned this place in line! You are taking it away from me only over my cold dead body!!!!" Of course, afterwards I felt like a terrible awful person that should be dragged out into the street and shot.

Question: Should people with special needs (elderly, pregnant women, physically/mentally handicapped, etc.) ALWAYS be allowed to go straight to the front of a line in a public place- post office, movie theater, bank, fast food restaurant, etc. EVEN when there are other circumstances (like it is extremely hot and everyone else has been waiting a long time too and they could have sat down and waited their proper turn)?

Another thing that is currently driving me more nuts than usual is the noise from the people who have their terrace right about at the level of our bedroom. On hot summer nights, we have to have the windows open, and as such are blessed with their banal conversation and music until 2 am. It makes me want to get out my recorder (yes, I bought a recorder. Yes, the Children's Instrument of Parental Torture. Don't ask why, I wanted to get back into music.) and give a hearty rendition of Hot Crossed Buns or Three Blind Mice out the window at 2 a.m. I am guessing that by the third verse:

Nice, light buns, Buy my currant buns; Come and try them, Then you'll buy them,
Nice, light buns.

that they will be running for cover.

Either that or a hose.

They would never figure out who did it!

Also found out that my maiden name can be anagramed into

Hit Man Gems

and if my middle name is included it is

He's the mental making

While Alain is

Pirate a volcano

Thanks !!!!

I am guessing that the way things are going, Alain is going to come home from work one day and find me sitting on the floor in front of the fan without a stitch on, rocking back and forth and jibbering to myself about La Poste.

Blog Archive


Favorite Posts