May 16, 2009

The Saga of the Broken Arm - Part II - Days of Wine and Needles

So there we were, driving around Lézignan-Corbières on a dark and stormy August night, trying to find the hospital. After a few wrong turns, and the help of some locals, we finally found it. Pain relief was on its way!

One thing to remember: It was August. The month for holidays in France.
If you don't know, August is the month when cities become ghost towns because the bulk of the population leaves to go on vacation and the beaches are wall-to-wall sweaty bodies soaking up the sun. And the hospitals are understaffed.
It was August and it was a Friday night in a small town hospital in rural France. Oh dear.

Not surprisingly, it was very quiet when we arrived, so thankfully we were helped immediately. But the first thing they did was take X-rays, not administer pain relief! Then they had to draw blood and the nurse couldn't find a single vein in my arm from which to do it. She kept jabbing and stabbing until husband found the doctor on duty, grabbed him, and asked for help. One quick jab and success! What a relief.
Only then did they give me some pain killers.

The X-Ray did indeed show that my arm was broken. In two places. I would have to go to the hospital in Narbonne for surgery and the next available ambulance to take me there wouldn't be available for at least 2 hours. Thanks, but no thanks. We grabbed my X-rays and drove there ourselves.

I finally got checked into a room about three in the morning and was told that I would be having surgery the next day. I slept a blissful, drug induced sleep until the evil, needle-bearing nurses arrived the next morning to inject me with more medication and to get me ready for surgery. "Getting ready" required a full body, and I mean every nook and cranny, scouring.
As they were vigorously scrubbing me up and down in the bathroom, with both the door to my room and door to the hallway wide open I might add, they told me that the anesthesiologist would be arriving soon to discuss her role in the procedure. La voilà, there she is! Ready to have our little chat while I'm standing there in all my naked glory, being buffed and cleansed.

It is rather humiliating to try to discuss medical terminology in a foreign language while high on painkillers and totally naked while having all of your bits washed. I don't recommend it.
I know the doctors and nurses are used to seeing people naked. To them it's no big deal. C'est normal. I, however, am not used to it.

So I was trying to ignore my humiliation and focus on what the anesthesiologist had to say. Something about putting the IV in my neck, straight into my jugular vein? I assumed that I had somehow misunderstood her. I mean, that sounds barbaric!

I didn't misunderstand her.

When they finally took me downstairs to knock me out before surgery, we had a bit of a problem. They couldn't get the needle into the right spot. Here they were, two trained anesthesiologists, standing over me with this long needle, jabbing me over and over in my neck, unable to find the exact angle or something. What I remember most is that I felt like a lab rat being experimented on. Complete and utter hell.
I finally begged them to stop. And that I didn't want them to administer the painkillers through my jugular. They would have to go through a vein in my arm.
They were quite unhappy with me and told me in rather disgusted voices that the drugs would take much longer to work that way, did it anyway, then said they were going to lunch.
And left me lying in a cold room with only a thin sheet to cover me. I was freezing.

Thankfully that is all I remember until after the surgery.

When I woke up husband was sitting in my room with an ice cold can of Coke, thinking that it would taste good and refreshing after not having anything to eat or drink in more than 24 hours. The nurses told him, "absolutely not!" I was only allowed a bit of water dabbed onto my lips. No Coca Cola!
Ok, fine.

Friends started arriving and family started calling from America. The hotel operator knew me as l'Américaine, and as soon as she heard an English voice, she transferred the call to my room. It was great to see and hear from so many people.
I was in a complete morphine induced fog, so didn't remember until much later that when our neighbors came by with their 13 year old daughter to say hello, there was nothing covering my upper body, leaving my left breast totally exposed. My right arm was all wrapped up against my torso so I couldn't put a shirt on, and nobody had bothered to cover me up with a sheet or a blanket when they arrived.

So now our neighbors know what my boobs look like. Great.
Hell, half the hospital had seen me naked by this point so I guess it really shouldn't matter.
When I later asked husband why he didn't bother covering me up he responded, "It's ok, they didn't mind."
Um, Hello?
I did!
To this day, I'm still stunned that he didn't think it was a big deal
. Especially after he made such a fuss about me leaving the house the night before with no clothing on.

The next day they brought the lunch menu and asked if I wanted beer or wine with lunch. I pointed at my IV and said, "but I'm on morphine." No problem! It was medicinal! Besides, I would only be served a small bottle.
Who was I to argue with doctor's orders?

In the end it took several days in the hospital, lots of drugs, six months of physical therapy, many follow-up visits to the surgeon, a lot of frustration and tears, and endless patience on husband's part. But now my arm is completely healed.
And even with the overuse generous use of needles (did I happen to mention that I have a phobia of needles) and inability to find my shy veins, in my experience the medical system in France is excellent. The doctors and nurses are friendly and helpful, they take their time with you and they are thorough.

But I never, ever want to have to go to the hospital again. The wine may have been good, but it wasn't that good. Pin It


Jennifer K said...

OMG - I know it was horrendous at the time, but I had to laugh reading this. Especially when your husband said, "it's OK, they didn't mind." And what is it with keeping the doors open when the patient is naked? I guess I'm too much of une anglo-saxonne to understand!

Danielle said...

Goodness! What a stressful and painful ordeal. It sounds like early hazing to become a French citizen... and it sounds like you passed!

spacedlaw said...

What an epic saga! Obviously nobody was worried about you getting cold or anything.
The anesthetist sounds like a debutante vampire on her first date...

Paola said...

OMG! I am SO sorry to tell you that I was laughing out loud while reading this (made husband and daughter very curious!). It sounds terrible, but the way you write it...LOL!

And let me mention- husbands can sometimes be a little naive when it comes to these type of things. ;)

You know, when we go to France, we usually pick tiny towns up desolate mountains. I always wonder what would happen if one of us got sick- or needed to go to the hospital- now I have an idea!!
Here's to remaining healthy in France!

Sandy said...

What an adventure! It reminds me a little of a dentist situation I had in France but you area much better story teller. The part where you where naked made me laugh really hard! I would be mortified!

Emm said...

Be glad you got cleaned up. I had a major fracture about 10 years ago, was whisked in and out of various places that involved X-rays and needles and finally surgery, finally got to take a sponge bath--unaided--five days later.

In US medicine, apparently they never look at anything except the one part that needs attention and thus overlook any efforts at cleanliness plus any ancillary injuries. It costs a lot more here, too.

And your account is LOL funny.

Loulou said...

It is funny when I look back on it. Well, maybe not the needle in the neck part...
I don't know why they wouldn't close the door and give me some privacy.
But boy, was I clean!

You're absolutely right! I have proven myself.

No, they definitely weren't at all bothered.
It was August, she was probably still learning. Lucky for me, huh?

We laugh about it now because it all is so surreal/funny.
But my husband's attitude toward our neighbors seeing my naked breast still amazes me. If it had been some young, single guy visiting, then he would have covered me up! :)
A toast to staying healthy and out of the hospital in France!

I was mortified but there was nothing I could do. I was so out of it I could hardly move and remember thinking to myself that it was all so unreal, maybe it wasn't really happening. It is so funny to look back on.

Uh oh...bad dentist story? Our dentist is brilliant! Thankfully.

That sounds terrible! And very painful.
I was extremely happy with the care I received here. And, other than the horrible anesthesiologist, the nurses and doctors were wonderful and nice.

Liz@Violet Posy said...

Thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog x

OMG! That sounds terrible! I was laughing at your husband not realising to cover you up though. But I guess everyone was so nonchalant that he didn't realise ;)

Valerie, En Bonne Compagnie said...

You SO bought a smile to my face. When oh when are you going to write that book?? (Not in the evenings between June and September I guess!)

Veronica said...

LOL -- the French totally lack any complexes about nudity, especially once you are in hospital! You have to lave your pudeur at the door. Not just in hospitals either, as you'll know if you've ever had a mammogram in France :)

Veronica said...

PS I also totally appreciate being served wine with hospital meals as a matter of routine, since it is obviously good for you :)

oeufmayo said...

Thanks for the post! I had never realised French lacked pudeur...until I read your post. But now that I think about it, I guess you're right (what with the topless beaches and what not). Funny also how healthcare is so cultural too. My husband dislocated his shoulder in Brooklyn, which confronted us both to the US medical system - and let me tell you it was not nice. Hilarious post anyhow!

Therese said...

Oui mais la differece avec les USA c est que c est GRATUIT...alors si tu n es pas contente, go back home!! ou les soins vont te couter la peau des fesses

Vivi said...

Therèse - c'est NULLE ce que vous avez dit ! Ce n'est pas gratuit, tout le monde payent avec LES IMPOTS.

n'importe quoi !

Loved the story, Loulou! I got a rub down when I was finally allowed to stand up after my C-section. I was so grateful to be up and out of bed I didn't care that someone else was doing the scrubbing, it felt so good! :)

Loulou said...

Not sure why he was so nonchalant!
Breaking my arm was a horrific experience but luckily I was well taken care of.
Not an experience I would like to repeat however!

No, no book writing in the evenings this summer. I'll be busy doing other things...
Glad you enjoyed reading the story even though you've already heard it.

Yes, I've been to have a Mammogram and been to the OB/GYN so I have plenty of experience with the lack of robes, etc. Still weird for me.
I don't think it is bad, I am just not used to it yet! I'm shy about walking around naked in public. Call me crazy...

Yes the American system can be difficult! Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in NY.
I've never had to stay in one in America - this was my first hospital experience.

Maybe you didn't read this sentence: "in my experience the medical system in France is excellent."
I was not complaining about the health care in France. It was superb.
I think you should read the entire post before writing nasty comments.

Loulou said...

That's right! It isn't GRATIUT. We all pay for it.
The nurses take amazing care of you in the hospitals here.

(Maybe Thèrese was my incompetent anesthesiologist and I hit a nerve?) :)

wcs said...

I was laughing right along until you got to that needle in the neck thing. I would have passed out right then and there, which might not have been a bad thing.

You're a trooper! Or is that trouper?

Like I'm fond of saying, I'm illiterate in two languages.

Enjoyed the story, especially with le happy end!

Loulou said...

When I was writing this it brought back all the horrible memories of that cold room, the pain and that long needle. It was more than awful.
Passing out would have been a good thing!
But all the other stuff is pretty funny. Now, anyway.
It wasn't funny at the time!

Therese said...

a Vivi : Si tu veux ecrire dans la langue de Moliere, surveille ton orthographe....Tu fais des fautes....Beaucoup meme.
Vous payez des impots vous aussi aux USA et vous payez quand meme la peau des fesses pour votre assurance medicale. Pres de 30 millions de vos concitoyens n ont pas d assurance medicale, pas de quoi vous goiser je dois dire.C est la raison pour laquelle vous aimez poser vos valises chez nous, ce que j apprecie moins c est que en plus vous critiquez la facon dont vous avez ete traitees.Quand c est gratuit, on est reconnaissant et on s aplatit.
loulou, si tu as un probleme avec ton bras mal resoude, pas la peine de faire appel a un avocat non plus du reste. medical malpractice la specialite americaine, une nuisance de plus.

Vivi said...

Ma chère Therese,

C'est vrai que je fais des fautes dans ton langue précieux, mais ce n'est pas moi qui aurait laissé des messages en français sur un site écrit en anglais pour les anglophones. On se demande pourquoi tu n'a pas à écrire en anglais, car tu peux bien évidemment le lire.

Aussi, je n'ai pas quitter les États-Unis en raison d'impôts ou les soins de santé, mais parce que un français est tombé amoureux avec moi et m'a demandé de l'épouser. Peut-être qu'il en est ainsi assez de françaises comme toi qu'il a choisi de chercher ailleurs ? En tout cas, les bêtises que tu dis ne me dérange pas du tout. Bon fin de week-end !

Loulou said...

Obviously you have missed the point entirely. If you can't understand written English then please don't comment about what you don't understand.
In the future I will simply delete your comments.

Thank you for coming to my defense! :)