A stay in a French hospital

Our blogger shares her unexpected experience in a French hospital. Source: Getty Images.

As I live in France and can converse in French, being treated in a French hospital has no drawbacks for me – that is apart from the drawbacks of the health issues that brought about me having to be in one!

At 81 years of age, it looks like I did too much too quickly and caused a mini-stroke but until the doctors worked out why one of the arteries became blocked, I had to remain in hospital for tests because, I was told, if it happens again my body’s defence mechanism might not succeed in de-blocking the artery as it had successfully done before – right, that’s enough about illness, I want to write about my impressions.

It was a Wednesday evening when I arrived at the hospital and after the male nurse and female driver of the ambulance handed me in at the emergency entrance having transferred me to a hospital ‘brancard’ (a solid stretcher on wheels) I did not have to wait long before I was wheeled off along a wide corridor to a room with four curtained off bays, each bay measuring about 3 metres square.  There I was questioned by three medical staff about my symptoms while a young male nurse stripped off my moccasins, shirt and underwear but not my socks and jeans and then a young female doctor covered my chest in numerous stick-on patches and attached wires to them, after which she threaded my arms through one of those back to front gowns, a nice sky blue one, and wound a blood pressure pad around my upper right arm.  My left arm seemed to be being avoided as that arm had been the one that had become temporarily paralysed (that’s how I had become alerted to the fact I was having a stroke and went to a neighbour’s for help).

A male nurse ran a test where squiggly lines were printed and that test had to be done twice more because the doctor and I were in conversation together and my speaking messed up the results apparently.  Then I was left unattended while the blood pressure pad inflated at regular intervals.  About half an hour later I was wheeled along to the department where IRMs were done that’s magnetic resonance imaging so M.R.I. in English and was told it would take 15 minutes and to be prepared to hear loud noises.  There was a bit of shuddering too as well as strange sounds.

After that, I was returned to the bay and the young woman doctor tried explaining the results to me because I couldn’t follow what she was saying, she went off somewhere and came back with a piece of paper and wrote on it under French words:

“No stroke. Considered like stroke.” All the same I was to be kept in hospital for observation and I was wheeled off to the intensive care wing of the neurovascular ward, neurovascular I later learnt related to or involved both nerves and blood vessels.

I was put in the emergency room and lay attached by a wire to the wires to my chest and to a wire fitted to a cap clipped over my finger and another connected to the blood pressure pad that was regularly pumping up to give readings and all was connected to machinery behind my bed.  This room was opposite the staff room and that first night my sleep got interrupted not only by nurses coming in to check on me but by staffroom chatter and laughter. This rather irritated me lying there feeling anxious but the second night hearing laughter was a comfort.

The third night I was caught by surprise when a woman in a flowing, flowery dressing gown with her hair up in an untidy top-knot with end bits sticking out entered the room with a big beaming smile on her face, close behind her was a man well into his 50s. I first thought they were patients coming to say “Hello” but they were the new night shift nurses popping in to introduce themselves and upon me remarking on the dressing gown, she told me she was wearing it because she was cold!

By then I was allowed to detach myself from the wires and use the room’s toilet, so I no longer had the embarrassment of having to use a bedpan plus having pain in my lower back while on it.  After that I enjoyed having to remain in bed; I read, watched television and ate tasty French meals and had pleasant medical staff chatting to me.

I noticed all the personnel looked to be from their early 20s to their early 40s – apart from the social worker in her late forties who came to see me and the male night nurse.  It also occurred to me that the doctors who saw me were women and many nurses were men although I saw only one male member of the cleaning staff.

A couple of days after that I saw a nurse who looked to be in her 50s and when I remarked about the lack of senior staff in the hospital to my neighbour, Veronique who came to see me, she commented that it would probably have been the pandemic that brought about their departure, she used to be a hospital nurse, so she knew all about the pressure of overwork that caused medical personnel to retire early as she had done.

I observed when I was taken by wheelchair to the ophthalmologist department of the hospital to have my eyes tested that most of the patients waiting were elderly and seeing that the bulk of the staff are people aged 20 to 50, I came to the realisation that we older people with health problems are providing work for young people, so that cheered me up!

After other tests with the results showing there was only one artery with calcification that needed medication, I went home happy knowing I was going to be okay.

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