French Hospitals, and City Rat Race Stress

This post was written by admin on November 30, 2009
Posted Under: Daily Paris

I should retitle this the Paris blog of neglect, but free time is a commodity that often eludes me, much to my undoing; I found the true cost of this the other weekend when I had first-hand experience of a French hospital.

Christmas has always been a busy time for me (being self-employed), and places in a local Parisian crèche is all about who you know; something I always suspected, but had confirmed after hearing from a couple of locals. So as it stands, I’m a work-aholic, baby raising superdad (in hindsight I’m glad not to have a baby in a crèche) still adjusting to this alien city, culture and language. I thought I was doing quite alright, until I woke up the other Saturday having had a man cold the night before, feeling a little short on breath. Assuming I’d caught the bug I get most winters, I ignored it, took a shower and felt reasonably okay until I stepped out and found it hard to catch my breath. Mme. Grenouille was feeding Bébé Têtard in the bedroom. I declared ‘Mme. Grenouille, I think I’m going to pass out now’. She came through to the living room as I sat on the floor trying to get my composure and breathe. She asked if I wanted a doctor to come over, but I pooh-poohed this as I have an aversion to doctors, and decided to get up and sit on my chair. This only exasperated my breathing and within seconds I really couldn’t breathe, at all and from not wishing to bother a doctor I told her to call an ambulance at once as I collapsed on the floor wheezing and fighting for every breath. I tried to remain calm, but then my body started doing strange things as my wrists bent over double, fingers went rigid, pins and needles throughout and found I couldn’t move my body. At this point that internal voice that was saying ‘stay calm, stay calm’ was changing its tune to ‘this is it, your time is up!’. I think I added ten years to poor old Mme. Grenouille’s life. She actually called the pompiers (firemen) who are medically trained and can get you to hospital rather fast. They arrived in about 2 minutes which was impressive. I lay half naked (fortunately got some undies on before leaving the shower room) as three Paris fireman stood around me (under any other circumstances I think Mme. Grenouille would have been quite titillated by the experience!) They spoke in French and threw in a bit of English, and after I got my breathing calmed to some degree I had to keep working on being able to move my limbs and hands which I was concerned I’d damaged. Eventually they took me off to Boulogne hospital, Mme. Grenouille stayed with the baby until friends could look after him.

Contrary to what most people think, the French usually only speak high-school English if that, and of course there’s no reason they should speak English fullstop, but it did make life a little tricky in the hospital as I tried to explain what had happened. The male doctor laughed and said ‘you’re not Irish are you?’ pretended to look worried (the France vs Ireland match had just been played with the controversial hand-ball induced goal).The female doctor kept saying something about tetany which meant nothing to me (I thought maybe they were saying tetanus, but that didn’t sound quite right and didn’t make any sense to me either). By the time Mme. Grenouille arrived and I left hospital I still wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but they seemed to think it was tetany or spasmpohilie and that I had to keep calm and relaxed. When I googled it, it turns out all French physicians are aware of this condition, but it is not properly recognised outside of France. If you’re going to fall victim to tetany, it seems France is the place to be!

I popped to the doctor who conveniently lives in the building right next door in a grandiose old Parisian apartment with ultra-high ceilings and elaborate sculpted walls and ceilings. Despite a two hour wait, she was very good, but quite cold and direct and remarked ‘everybody suffers stress’ (I hadn’t tried in anyway to imply I was an exceptional case!) She did seem to think I have asthma though, so if that is true I’m a bit surprised to be diagnosed at 32. Still she was a darn sight better than any English doctor who had told me I just had a general bug, there was nothing they could do and I should just rest in bed for a week or two. It also explains my lingering coughs that used to last a month or two.

Bon bref… How to live a less stressful life. Well I’m working on it, but Bébé Têtard and work are things I can’t ignore. Paris isn’t a stress-free city either. Just yesterday I went to pick up the bed linen from the dry cleaners. On my last visit when I dropped off a sheet, the lady asked how many items there were – I didn’t quite catch her question the first time and asked if she could repeat herself, and she very abruptly raised her voice and repeated it quickly as though I’d caused her some great miscarriage of justice; there was a malevolent look of scorn to accompany it. Yesterday some poor quietly spoken 80 year old woman was there, but had misplaced her ticket. This same wretched employee went ballistic at her, literally yelling, telling her how she’d been sick for the past three days, how she did not have the time or inclination to search for her laundry which could be anywhere. I was gobsmacked at the lack of professional courtesy, and if I’d been more fluent I would have stepped to the old lady’s defence. Her colleagues had stopped working and were just watching her fly off the handle too, until one realised she was going to continue shouting and getting things off her chest for some time, and so attended to me.
Afterwards I went to the boulangerie opposite where I thought I had come across my first English xenophobe, given she smiled a lot to the French customers and always looked at me with contempt and never once with a smile. Luckily on this occasion she did actually smile and was polite, so I think it was just her Parisian mentality and nothing personal.

Well, best put my nose to the grindstone and bring my entry to a stop, in my usual abrupt manner. I will surely try and write something more interesting prior to Christmas.

Reader Comments

just have to say something :

I loved the part about the ” you’re not Irish, are you ??
“…I’m myself embarassed of meeting Irish people too…I think I would just run and hide…”.
Even though I was worrying aboutif you would survive or not.
But it took me 3 posts though to understand who was Mme Grenouille and Bébé Tétard….:S sorry for them 🙂

Written By Nina on June 23rd, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

I have been mistaken for an Irishman once in the past. I’ve also been mistaken as an Australian on three occasions, and once as Dutchman.

Sorry for the confusion on the family naming conventions. It’s to hide the identity of the guilty parties who reside with me. 🙂

Written By admin on June 24th, 2010 @ 9:12 am

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