May 9, 2009

The Saga of the Broken Arm - Or, My First Encounter With the French Health System

One August evening, four summers ago, I opened the skylight on our top floor to help keep the house cool. That one, innocent act means that I will forever have a titanium rod and two little screws in my right arm.
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The clouds started building late that afternoon and by 9pm the thunder was rumbling and the lightening started flashing. I was in our bedroom changing into my p.j.'s when the skies opened up and the rain came crashing down. I quickly ran upstairs to close the skylight and as soon as my foot hit the water that had pooled on the floor, I slipped and came down hard on my right elbow.
Lying there stunned, I felt some pain in my upper arm and immediately thought that I had dislocated my shoulder. You know how you see in movies or on shows like ER that a dislocated joint can be popped right back into the socket?
Well, in my infinite medical wisdom I thought, "Ok Jennifer, no big deal, just be brave and pop it back in," then grabbed a hold of my upper arm with my left hand and pushed.
YEOW!
My shoulder wasn't dislocated. My arm was broken.

So there I am, totally naked, skylight still open, rain pouring through a hole in our roof into our house, and husband is down on the main floor, totally oblivious to what is going on up on the third floor. Yes, I was the I've fallen...and I can't get up lady from those TV commercials.

I started calling for him, somewhat loudly at first, then screaming, "honey! HONEY!" He came running upstairs, grabbed some towels, got the skylight closed and the floor mopped up. I was eerily calm when I told him that I thought I had broken my arm and needed to immediately go to the hospital.
He gave a brilliant response, "But...you're naked." (I still tease him ruthlessly about this)
Like I cared! The fact that I wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing was the least of my worries. I would have happily walked out to the car and gone into the hospital just as I was. Getting some pain relief was priority number one!

In the end I didn't go in my birthday suit. He helped me pull on a pair of sweats and wrapped a summer robe around my shoulders. Putting a shirt on would have been impossible anyway, as I couldn't move my arm.

It was about 10pm by now and as I said, we were having a dramatic thunderstorm. Out into the pouring rain we went, driving over the rugged roads while I held my arm and tried not to scream every time we hit a bump, to the nearest hospital in Lézignan-Corbières. Of course, we didn't know exactly where the hospital was. Just knew that there was one...

Part II of the Saga- How I Survived the Needles and Enjoyed the Wine in the Hospital.

My lovely black and blue marks in my good arm from the endless IV's and needles - Photo taken by Jon Knowles

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