A look inside the French medical system

Last Friday, I picked CA up from school early, both of us quite excited at the coming weekend. You see, it was my birthday that Sunday and we were all heading to Paris for the weekend. TW had already left that morning having arranged to meet with a person her lab collaborates with on a project. First though, lunch. CA and I went to the local sandwich shop as she had stated (over and over again) that she was sooo hungry. Whilst waiting for our food to be prepared, CA complained of abdo pain. My immediate thought was hunger pangs, however as we talked and she managed to get her words in order, it became apparent that it wasn’t hunger pangs. We made our way to our apartment and hooked into lunch. At least I did anyway. Normally by this time of day, CA is ravenous. She practically inhales food by the time it’s lunchtime. She took two bites and said she was no longer hungry. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I told her to lie on the couch and give it 10 minutes or so and see how she felt then. After 10 minutes, she was if anything, worse. I made my way down stairs to the liaison officer and asked about nearby doctors where you didn’t need an appointment. She informed me that there was no such thing, but the childrens hospital had an emergency department just around the corner. I flew back upstairs, put on my coat, got CA dressed warmly and off we went.
By the time we had made our way downstairs, it was clear she wasn’t good. She could hardly walk so I piggy backed her down the road, round the corner and into the reception area. I made enquiries about being seen and was directed upstairs and told to follow the orange corridor. Then the receptionist said something I couldn’t understand, but motioned for me to follow her. Turns out she was getting a wheelchair for CA. Nice.
So, we made our way to the right section and presented ourselves to the receptionist there, answered a bunch of questions and were shown into see a nurse. This is where it got complicated as the nurse had no English and my French was rapidly failing me the more complicated the explanations needed to be. Thankfully she went off to get a doctor who spoke English and all was well. We were ushered into a waiting area and told to wait. And wait we did. CA’s condition continued to deteriorate, but this didn’t seem to phase anyone too much. She had a couple of vomits, luckily I caught the first one in my coat. I began to get a bit cheesed after the third kid with a sprained ankle came and went before we were seen.
During this time, I had been trying to keep TW updated via texts and voice messages due to the hit and miss nature of mobile reception in the building. She had received my voice message and was making her way back to us from Paris. She had her own challenges regarding that. Someone had left a bag on a train and basically shut down the station as a result so no trains were going anywhere until that was resolved. You can imagine how happy this would have made her. Eventually the trains started rolling again and she was on her way.
We finally got in to a cubicle and began what was a long series of tell the story, get some obs done, repeat. Off to get an Ultrasound where the provisional diagnosis was Appendicitis as I’d suspected. Shortly after our return to the cubicle, TW arrived to the delight of both her and CA. I made a quick trip home to dump my vomit riddled jacket and to put together an overnight bag for the girls. On my return, a doctor confirmed that they were treating it as appendicitis and would operate that night. After more waiting we were all moved upstairs to the surgical suite where CA was introduced to the anaesthetist. After a short chat, she was wheeled away from us into the operating theatre. I’m not sure who was more scared at that moment, her or us. To pass the time, we were shown into a waiting room and brought hot drinks. By now it was well after 9PM and we were both exhausted, but the waiting area was too cold to sleep. After what seemed like only a short time, we were told everything had gone well and she just needed time to wake up and they would take us to her and then we’d move on to a ward. When we did finally see her, she was a bit groggy, but chatty all the same.
Off we went to the childrens ward where a folding bed had been placed in anticipation of one of us spending the night with CA. She fell asleep shortly after arriving and after a ensuring everything was in order, I made my way back to our apartment. CA made a good recovery and was allowed home Sunday. She’s had a week off school, slowly driving me up the wall a bit further each day. That’s how we know she’s getting better.

4 Replies to “A look inside the French medical system”

  1. Wow, that must have been pretty terrifying for all of you! Bad enough having your kid in hospital, but dealing with a language barrier would have made it 10 times worse. Glad to hear she’s recovering, hope you had some birthday celebrations too!

    1. It was pretty scary, and frustrating. I strongly suspected appendicitis and of course, in Australia undiagnosed abdo pain in a paediatric patient is a medical emergency. Not being able to communicate this was infuriating. Anyway, it all turned out well and we had cake on Sunday thanks to TW’s resourcefulness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *