Looking in the bright clean mirrors of the ward bathroom I see a reflection of wrinkles that need to be celebrated. I have become of age in many ways. For six winters it has been a problem to walk and now a bunion on my genetic foot needs osteotomy.
The French Medical System beats that of the UK any day. All is efficient and structured. The administration is thorough. Plenty of papers have to be read in French and signed once the chirugien agrees to do the operation 6 weeks later. An appointment is made with the anaesthetist. The orthopaedic chaussure is ordered. The evening before the op, I shower and shampoo with iodine. The same the next morning and also one hour before the operation.
On operation day we arrive at Reception. Take a numbered ticket. Wait. Complete the administration process. Proceed to blood test. Return to desk. Put blue ticket in box. Receptionist collects ticket. Accompanies me to x-ray department. Wait. Foot is photographed. Return to desk with yellow ticket. Wait. Receptionist collects ticket. Accompanies me to bed 381. Bon Courage.
My room has two of each of the following: English patients, beds, chairs, armchairs, footstools, tables, bedside cabinets, wardrobes, telephones, televisions (watch two programs at once if the patients have paid for this facility), two sinks, one toilet and one shower en-suite. Clean and comfortable.
I wait on ward all day nil by mouth. Then ‘Off we go to the Magic Wood.” I steal the pantomime phrase from my ward friend as I am trolleyed along the corridors to the operating theatre where it is cold. I need the loo so we go to a long ward where men and women lie in blue operating robes and are attended to by male and female nurses. It feels like a wartime zone! Where am I? I piddle in a potty whilst horizontal. Then I am trolleyed to my destination. Injections and attachments to a saline drip. I am placed on the slab, with my arms outstretched in a crucifix form. Haven’t I been here before? Warm air is vacuumed through a paper bag put across my upper body. Heart monitors are attached. I see my anaesthetist behind me and he smiles. I remember no more until waking in the aforementioned recovery ward. I am the last to be leave this efficient, caring hub. I sleep with morphine but am woken several times throughout the evening and next morning as nurses, male and female arrive to check temperature, blood pressure, pain threshold, and condition of foot. I am not allowed out of bed until I am detached from the morphine and they have checked that I can stand without being dizzy. I am encouraged to use the special shoe to walk about. They are pleased with my progress as the pain threshold drops to about 0.5 on the 0 to 10 scale. The bandage is removed. The foot is not a pretty sight, but it is neatly executed and I can see that my big toe is a different shape. All OK, so they release me from their charge. The doctor was charming, smiling and happy to answer my questions. I am instructed as to what to do next. I receive my xrays, prescription and information for the nurse who has to come to my domicile for the next 15 days to change bandages, give me daily anti-phlebitis injections and take blood tests.
Under the French system you know how much everything costs. One is invoiced and charged appropriately. Before the operation I received over 200 euros worth of protective bandages. Now I have received another large sum’s worth of medical materials. The French patient is aware of the cost of health treatment. Mind you it could be interpreted as a hypochondriac’s paradise.
The food wasn’t great but being hungry I ate what I could:
Breakfast – a bowl of hot milk, a sachet of chocolate powder, a bread roll, butter, jam.
Lunch – Fish cake, steamed potatoes with parsley, Rice salad, Yoghurt.
Gouter – Tea and Rice biscuit
Dinner – Vegetable Soup, Coley square, pureed potatoes, Camembert wedge, bread and a pear.
Check out of hospital. Take a numbered ticket. Wait. Receive the hospitalisation certificates. Leave the almost emptied hospital. It closes for the weekend. Probably to be scrupulously cleaned. Thank you French Health System.