Tuesday, January 17, 2012

À santé 2012

Happy New Year, bonne annee and a votre sante (to your health)! I don't think I have ever really appreciated just how fortunate we have been to have our health, but after Caleigh's mysterious and frightening episode on Christmas Eve and lingering headaches, backaches and non stop hacking for weeks since, I have been forced to take our health very seriously. "Could it be due to living in this old, cold, stone house?" I pondered and began to worry that moving here could be the cause of her illness and having back-to-back colds and flus. But maybe it was just due to new and foreign viruses that her body was not used to; much like the ones that the Spanish explorers brought to the the New World. Maybe she was being attacked by "Old World" viruses that her body had not had time to build up immunities against. And maybe instead of this major move improving her life and expanding her horizons, we had turned a healthy teenager who scoffed at colds or flus when living in California into a sickly child prone to every virus or bacterial infection that reared its ugly head? Fortunately, the only reason I think I can write about this at all now is that I am confident she is finally on the mend and after all that she has gone through this past year and I'm sure she is slowly building up her resistance to these local bugs. Just another precautionary appointment to see a brain specialist in a week (for her seizure) and finish off 15 days of antibiotics for a bacterial infection that was diagnosed in her lungs, and we should be good I am thinking. Below is a photo of all three of us in the hospital on Christmas Eve after I noticed that her gurney in the emergency room was right next to a cute little Christmas tree and was attempting to make light of the situation.

One of the things I think I learned during these past few weeks is that the french healthcare system is amazing; i.e. real good for what many back home might call and insult as "socialized medicine." If that's what it is, then, please, by all means, socialize me! From the care and attention we received from the speedy arrival of the paramedics out to our farm located out in the boonies, to the thorough and exhaustive tests including a spinal tap, catscan and beaucoup blood tests that were performed in the emergency room and the cautionary advise to keep her overnight in the hospital (even suggesting keeping her longer if need be), I could not help but think that she would not have received the same treatment back home - in fact, I truly doubt that she would have even been advised to go to the hospital in the first case. And nor would it have been remotely affordable. Not to say that her and our doctors in LA were not great. They were and are. It's just that it might have been a lot more difficult for them to recommend a hospital visit knowing that we would have been out thousands of dollars for something that might have only amounted to a bad flu. In France, they just don't seem chance such odds  and for us, it gave us a huge sense of relief knowing that we were receiving the best care available.

Okay, it's not a perfect system here by any means. Seeing your personal doctor in a timely manner while sick is not as easy as we found out this week when our only option was to wait in our doctor's waiting room for a minimum of 3-4 hours with the first actual appointment not available until late February. Caleigh was too weak to do that so I spent countless hours trying to find a new doctor, explain her situation and latest symptoms and request that her hospital records be transferred. Luckily, when calling the hospital for her records, they instead suggested we just come there first thing the next morning and they were able to perform the necessary xray that ultimately finally determined her lung infection. This sure beat a typical office visit which would have entailed sending us off to a radiographie office in a separate town where we would be required to take a number and wait; then possibly stop and wait at the local lab for blood tests (again, take a number and wait) only have to return for the results and go back to the doctor's office (who cannot make an appointment for over a month so we'll wait again for 3-4 hours) who would then issue a prescription for such and such that we'll have to fill. So, a simple one hour's doctor's visit can easily turn into a day's event which is not easy to get used to, but at least I won't go bankrupt over it or the hospital stay either.

There was one sad outcome from this whole ordeal that I sincerely hope is only temporary. When we had to cancel our Noel fete with Colette on the morning of Christmas eve, she was clearly and understandably disappointed and told me, "oh, don't worry, I'm used to being alone."  I know she had lovingly prepared various canapes for our party and for the first time in years, she looked forward to spending this special evening with friends. I did too. When I called to to let her know that if Caleigh was fortunate enough to be released from the hospital on Christmas day, we would try to move our celebration a day later. She was clearly annoyed and told me that she had already given our canapes away. "That's alright Colette, we have plenty of things to eat for the party," I told her which in retrospect may have been considered more of an insult since the appetizers she had made and quickly gave away were really her "gifts" to us since we had earlier decided to forego exchanging gifts and here I had just dismissed them as easily replaceable. Who knows, she might have also dreaded what fare I planned to offer knowing that I was the one doing the cooking. Whatever the reason, hopefully with some time, she will be able to understand some day that we did not have a whole lot of control over what happened and that contrary to her opinion, we did and will continue to, provide our child with a nourishing diet (along with Caleigh's dietary teen supplements consisting of chocolate and an occasional Mc Do's). And even if we failed at that, she still eats better than most due to the gourmet fare offered at her school cafeteria 5 days a week.

I've read some other's observations about the differences in our cultures and how Americans are prone to be more on the vague side of making plans and will often say, "yeah, we really ought to get together soon," but not actually schedule a time and date. Hank and I unintentionally learned this early last year when we said to new acquaintances, "Oh, you'll have to see our progress at the house," only to be asked immediately and matter-of-factly, "When?" and then fumbling around for an answer until we just said, "Well, how about this afternoon?" when we still did not have a kitchen to sit in, had only meager offerings of instant nescafe and stale biscuits and the temperature inside the house was about about 0 degrees. But, it was more than worth it, as Dominique and Patricia have become some of our closest friends.

The French are also more direct and precise and when they make plans which are rarely broken. Now I'm sure most of my younger french girlfriends would have understood completely about canceling a party because our daughter was in the hospital, but due to my limitations with the language I have also learned how awkward and/or unintentially one can make (or inadvertently, break) plans in France. Throw in the french style of telling time based on the 24hr clock and add a few metric conversions in the directions just for the hell of it, and it's a miracle I have ever made it anywhere remotely on time which I have to admit, I often do not.  In fact, I have driven to the wrong town (Moustier instead of Monsteir) and been late for a few appointments - arriving at 3pm when it should have been 1pm (or as they say, treize heure).

Anyway, last summer, when my dear friend Patricia assisted me in signing up for a few of the local vide greniers (village garage sales) because I had mentioned to her that I wanted to test the waters in selling our gift line, I had no idea that she actually wished to join me at them at my table which was unfortunately lost in translation. When I decided to change plans and participate in a different vide in another village so I could help out a friend, I failed to inform Patricia because I did not realize that she planned on attending. About a week later when I entered the mairie's office where Patricia works and where I typically receive enthusiastic kisses, "ca vas," etc., I could tell something was wrong when she quietly said hello. Luckily for me though, I did not have to wonder long about the obvious slight because she soon asked, "where were you?" "Where was I when?" I innocently asked. "At the vide grenier. I waited and waited for you all day, but you didn't show up." she said.
"Oh, please tell me that she didn't just say that," I thought to myself slowly becoming mortified when I visualized her so kindly introducing me to the locals and helping me sign up and then waiting for me the day of and ultimately being stood up. By me. I then struggled to explain in my god-awful french that only Patricia is kind enough to always somehow understand and apologized with tears in my eyes. And not only did she understand, thankfully, more importantly, she forgave me.

Well, Hank and I take our first written driving test tomorrow which reminds me that rather than blogging, I should be studying, so I'll have to update you about that next time as well give a progress report on the house.

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