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.

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.
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, "'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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wcs said...

Ooh, how scary! This is a new side of the cheese loving wonder that is Loulou! I'm sure it turns out well, but it must have been horrible at the time. :)

Sandy said...

Can't wait to hear part deux of the story!

Unknown said...

way back in '99 on my usual trip to Montana, I stepped wrong on a rock on the stream bank to land a trout - my right ankle went one way and the rest of me went the other - passed out for a 2nd or 2 - whoa I said this is more than a sprain - so I landed the trout, cleaned it, found a sound stick as a crutch and headed over a mile back to my car - OK as long as I kept my foot absolutely straight - anyway laid around for 3 days till I saw a doc when no improvement and all black and blue - then got a flight back to Florida and a ortho doc who put in a plate and 6 screws! I told friends I was in a rodeo and got bucked off a bronc - some dumb enough to belief a 55 yr old flat lander would ride a wild horse trying for some worm money!!
Anyway recovered just fine

martha said...

The tone of your post tells me that as painful as the experience was, the outcome is looking positive. Hope everything is soon A-OK!
I missed out on my chance to experience French hospital hospitality four years ago. I was in Paris for a meeting. I came out into a light drizzle, slipped and twisted my knee. Just before I fainted I heard it pop. When I came too, 2 very handsome youngish worried catering students were looking down at me. They got me inside, where I refused to be taken to hospital, did a Dale, got myself back to my hotel and onto the plane the next morning. The next day at home, I called my doctor, who came over, took one look at my knee and ferried me to our local hospital where they drained an humongous amount of fluid out of my kneecap.
Sending lots of healing thoughts your way

Jennifer said...

Well, I'm typing this with two hands so yes, it did turn out ok. :)
And yes, it was horrible at the time!

Coming soon...

Ouch! The story about the rodeo is hilarious. How funny that some of your friends believed you! Glad that you recovered without any problems.

The hospitals down here are great, from personal experience and the experience of others. Of course, not having to go at all is the best option!
Your knee is all better now?

Paola Westbeek said...

Oh my word!!! One of my biggest fears is breaking something! I am so sorry this happened to you.

PS: I did read that patients get served wine in French hospitals. Now that sounds like good treatment! ;)

Ksam said...

Oh no! Luckily your husband was home to help you though! I'm always worried about that now - if something would ever happen to me here (or while traveling), it would be days before anyone would realize something was wrong!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Oh how scary it must of been for least you still can type with two hands still and all is well.....

But on the other hand I have read this story twice and was laughing, not at you , but the incident of skylight, naked, rain and you shouting for your hubby and his concern was that you were naked ..ha ha

parlezvouskiwi said...

Oh ouch.

I know the feeling - I fell on the cobblestones and broke my hand within 2 weeks of arriving in Scotland and having a cast and trying to squeeze layers of warm clothing on in the miserable cold winter... was a challenge to say the least!

Wishing you a speedy recovery.

Jennifer said...

Breaking something was one of my biggest fears too. Never again!!! (I hope)

Yes, luckily he was there to help me. You should always keep a phone close by!

Yes, I laugh about it now. It was a surreal moment. :)

Is your hand better now? That sounds very painful!