dimanche, mars 29, 2009

09.03.29 : Ultimate Tourist Experience; The Ides of March

So, anyway, I had been giving some consideration to what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, like a very nice dinner with some friends, perhaps with just my wife, or a BBQ in the garden or whatever, and well, I just never executed a plan, and then, as often happens, something just happens that takes the decision right away from me. That thing, was, of course the ultimate tourist-ethno-cultural-study experience .... foreign hospital!

Now that I am sort of (and I mean sort of) over the shock to my system of actually being 50, I can almost talk coherently about some of the events leading up to that moment in my now definitely-more-than-half-over life.

Like a lot of Sunday mornings, I started off on a bike ride with the local cycling club. On the climb up the first hill, the famous little colline to Ormesson, I said to myself: Oh shit, this is not going to be a good day, as my little heart pounded rather strangely. Ouup, demi-tour, after 15 km, returned home, and then about an hour later, decided to go to the hospital for a little EKG and relaxation, with the idea in mind to be home in time for dinner. Well, even if you don't speak much French, it was obvious from the 2 doctors, 1 nurse and 2 technicians circling my little roll-a-bed in the emergency hallway: You are not going home today. As they pointed out to me: Hey, you're lucky ... we even have an open bed today.

I had never spent a night in a hospital in my life, and I get to do it on the 8th floor of the very celebrated public hospital Henri Mondor of Créteil, just outside the frenchy confines of Paris.

On the cardiology ward, there are only old men, and me. Fortunately, I have a shared room. Fortunately, my roommate, about 75 years old, not only has a heart problem, but perhaps slight hearing loss also, and of course, the remote control for the TV. I know this is just a bad dream, but I swear, as I am trying to catch a little nap in the afternoon between EKGs and injections of I-don't-know-what, I swear my wife is answering questions to a French game show that is blaring on the TV. I doze off and my wife jumps up says: "Utrillo! Yes!" Is this really happening? More drugs, please. The best show on TV of course was saved for after dinner: Demain n'arrive jamais. In other words: 007, Tomorrow never comes. I didn't know Pierce Brosnan spoke so much French. The only segments not dubbed in French are all the segments not in English ... so when they speak German or Chinese, they sub-title in French. When they speak English, they dub in French. Logic. Anyway, there is a lot of blowing up of planes and ships and rockets and stuff. The volume was enough to make your heart stop.

I have heard a lot of French people comment on the American health care system, and apparently our desire to define payment responsibilities and methods prior to providing treatment. I was in my little hospital bed on Mon AM, when the admissions desk calls me to discuss their concern with my insurance. "Can you come down to admissions to discuss this with us?" I'm in a hospital bed, with a drip line connected to my arm. Sure, I can come down; I'm not doing anything up here. So, I throw on some jeans, pull my drip line thru my sleeve to put on a shirt, and walk down to the elevator with my drip bag on a pole with 5 wheels, of which one wheel actually rolls, while the other 4 do not, requiring me to carry the roll-a-pole system.

There are innumerable pleasant things to say about French people. This is one of their charms: they live for themselves. Example: With my roll-a-pole and drip bag, I try to enter the elevator to descend the 8 floors to discuss the medical payment plan. This is one of those big elevators that is used to transport the hospital beds, I imagine you can comfortably fit about 8 or 9 people without crowding. There are 4 people in the elevator, all standing by the door. Not one moves to allow me in. I have to bap the first man nearest the door with my drip bag pole to get him to back up. A few minutes later, standing in line at admissions with my little bag-on-a-stick, one woman nearly runs me and my poled bag over to cut the line in front of me. The world rotates independently around each French person. 60 million little suns and planets and universes. Watch out for the black holes. We make some phone calls to the US to discuss the insurance plan, which seems satisfactory to the admissions. She actually speaks some English. The only person in 2 days who speaks English to me is the one collecting the money. Go figure. I notice on the way out she speaks Italian to someone on the phone. International language, that money thing.

The nice cardiologists eventually allowed me to leave the hospital. Armed with a prescription to protect me from my new found arrythmia, I have permission to do whatever I want. We’ll see how this goes.

Beware the ides of March.

Some are you are already 50; some, like Jay, very soon to be.

For the rest of you, be very afraid.

Happy Spring and Easter and all that,