Continued from Part 1
The last couple of days I’ve been squatting at my PIL’s with Emma. My MIL has been very good to me and to be honest with you I am glad not to be on my own, although I do have a doubt about imposing myself too much on them.
Meanwhile I’ve earned a bit “pocket-money” by copying music CD’s and printing off the covers for them for my FIL, which he sold today when he put on a show for some school children. You can listen to some of his songs at his site: http://www.chantecoles.fr – a little plug never does anyone any harm.
The last time I was in hospital at the A & E (“Urgences”), that was back on Friday the 7th, by the afternoon of the following day I had been moved to the cardiac department on the 3rd floor of the hospital in Corbeil-Essonnes. The first thing they did was to put me on oxygen, before sending me for a scan of my lungs. This entailed being put on a conveyor belt which passes through a giant ring. The machine makes several scans, one of which involves injecting me with a liquid which gives a warm feeling all over your body as the machine scans. Very odd feeling, but I think I owe that machine my life as it was able to see where all the clots were and dictated how I was to be treated in the coming days.My first weekend
As is common in French hospitals (and for all I know in hospitals the world over), I shared a room with another patient. When I arrived it was a rather deaf, if friendly, 93 year old bloke. He was the first of five patients I was to share my room with.View from my hospital window. Les Tarterets on the left. I could see the Eiffel Tower at night, it is on the horizon behind a chimney in the foreground.
On the Sunday they took me off oxygen, which meant they felt they could see I was breathing normally. I was quite relieved about that even if it was far from over. My room mate left that afternoon for home – he had only been in hospital for 3 days, quite impressive given his age! Meanwhile, the injections of a blood thinning agent continued from when I was in A & E. My jabs were twice a day, morning and evening in my thigh, along with a tablet of Previscan each evening with my meal.Main course – Hospital style Starter & dessert – Hospital style
Oh and what meals they were! Everyone jokes about hospital food. Well, those jokes are well founded… the food in general was a bit tasteless and it seemed that they must have had a ready supply of carrots in all their forms. I had carrot soup at least 3 times during my stay. But I have to say apart from the abundance of carrots meals were quite varied. But it comes to something when even an apple has no taste!
Despite the fairly middling food I did at least eat most of my veggies and fruit, something I’m not very good at normally. There was one meal I didn’t eat because it tasted so awful, but that was the exception. Then I had to put up with things that I don’t actually like… salad, beetroot (served twice in one week) and asparagus. On one day I was served with choucroute (saurkraut) with pieces of gammon pork and sausage. I quite enjoyed that, as normally I don’t like any form of cabbage. On another day it was mashed potato and a boudin noir (black pudding) which had been steamed or boiled. Not a fan of black pudding really, but I was so hungry I ate half. But it was the only thing in my two weeks in hospital that had a lot of taste and as such was very sickly.
By far the best meal of the day (for me) was the petit déj (breakfast) and it was really nothing special, but I really enjoyed it. It consisted of a fresh bread roll and tiny packet of butter and an equally small pack of jam, served with a lovely café au lait (white coffee). I loved it, and always have since I arrived in France. Admittedly I do love toasted sliced brioche with jam… thats what I had to eat this morning!
By Monday I was sent for more examinations, this time a doppler of my heart – which stressed me out a bit. The clots of blood had passed via my heart to end up in my lungs so of course I was a bit concerned about that. The Doctor who carried out the scan was so good at putting me at my ease (my voice had more than a bit of panic in it). As she could see my heart directly she was able to tell me it was OK immediately. What a relief! During the same week I also had a doppler of my liver too. Everything was covered.
By then a chap who had had a stroke some years ago shared my room. He couldn’t really talk very well and his wife even forwarned us that he had a tendence to lapse into talking Alsacian… which “is weird” she said “as although that is where he was from originally, he had never spoken it in his life!” He stayed with me for two days, while they sorted his pacemaker out.
During my first week I quickly got the impression that we ceased to be “people” to the Doctors and nurses, but “things” or “patients”. The Doctors tended to tell us what we needed to know and the nurses denied all knowledge of anything (we are just here to dispense medication and check on you) and suggested we asked the Doctors. So my lung scan and liver scan probably told the Doctors something, but it was never shared with me. By this time my Previscan dose was upped to 1 and a quarter tablets. The twice daily injections continued, interspersed with the occasional blood test. I quickly learned that every single nurse had great difficulty finding a vein in my arm to extract the necessary amount of blood. The worst was when they attacked my wrist and the back of my hand – that was quite painful. In fact the very worst was being woken up with a blood test. The lights would be switched on by the nurse at 8am as she breezed into the room “Hello Monsieur Nelson, blood test. Close your eyes I’m putting the lights on!”… Me: “Urggghhhh!!!! Bonjour…”
As well as the regular blood tests, they came round with an apparatus that wheeled around on a pedestal to check my blood pressure and oxygenation. My blood pressure was always good, my oxygenation was at 95% and by the end of my stay climbed up to 97% – that was a big moral boost for me and I made sure I saw the screen when they did it.
The general drill for the morning was the occasional blood test, then sometimes it was “washie time” or breakfast time… depending on when breakfast arrived. I hated the washie time – theres nothing worse than having to wash yourself in bed under the covers with the aid of a bowl of warm water, disposable flannels and soap. Although in a few days I had my own liquid soap to use and could even brush my teeth. At first I didn’t have any toothpaste nor toothbrush. I needed help cleaning my back and legs then usually every two days two nurses came in to change the bed sheets. I was always grumbled at because my sheets help dropping down above my head, mainly because my bed was too small from me.
So all the activity seemed to be in the morning, then it was lunchtime at around 12.30 to 1pm, which then made the afternoons very long. In France everyone has their evening meal quite late compared to back in the UK. Even here at home we eat at around 8pm. In hospital it was around 7.30pm. By then Thumpah was with me, so that made me feel a lot better. But those long afternoons were a killer, especially as I was wondering what was going on with my health in that first week.
It wasn’t a bundle of joy for Thumpah either. Visiting time was between 2pm and 8pm, so that ruled out her popping in to see me during her lunch break. So she ended up having to work through her lunch so she could leave earlier at the end of the day. Thanks to her boss this wasn’t a problem (in fact I’d like to say here – a big big thankyou to Thierry, for being very flexible for Thumpah while I was in hospital). But behind the scenes much reorganising was going on to cater for my two kids. I was and am still very humbled by the fact that my PIL’s and SIL moved into place to fill in for me and look after Rémy & Emma and therefore taking some off the burden off of Thumpah. It still wasn’t easy for her, but it could have been much much worse!
By the middle of my first week, the Alascian bloke had given away to a poor chap who had completely lost his mind. He had just lost his wife and was transferred from his old peoples home to hospital as he as having serious heart problems. Unfortunately the days when he shared his room were just made difficult by his presence. He was also deaf and just didn’t seem to understand what he was doing there. During the night he spent much of the time shouting and because his alarm to call the nurses didn’t work I ended up having to use mine to summon them. Little by little I got fed up with him shouting out loud and one night woke up while the nurses were attending to him and shouted at them something like “Dis-donc! Ca va pas! Merrrddddee! J’essai de dormir là!” (Gosh! Thats not OK there! Shit! I’m trying to sleep here!). In the morning the nurses gave me some strange looks. I stayed my usual polite self and kept my head down. After a few days they were all grumpy with this poor bloke and also sometimes a bit grumpy with me.
Then on Friday morning I was sent for the second doppler on my leg, with the same Doctor who had sent me to hospital in the first place. He has his practice in Evry, but came into the hospital in Corbeil every Friday morning. I was hoping to spend just a week in hospital by that time, because I was really going round the bend. But it wasn’t to be. The Doc said that the clot in my leg was still dangerous and that they’ll be keeping me in for “a few more days”. At the time I didn’t really know when I would be discharged from hospital, but as the Doctor who did my leg scan was only there every Friday I knew in the back of my mind I’d be there for another week as I’d need another scan to check where the clot was. My heart sank.
Six months later…