And so my piece of investigative journalism into the French medical system continues with two visits to the généraliste and one to the pharmacy to stock up on supplies. This was how the week went:
Saturday: Ensemble orchestral
First trip outside with my foot brace and a crutch D ‘happened’ to have in the cellar. We went via Autolib, the electric car version of the Velib/Parisian Boris bike, in order to be able to park nearby in the 3ème arrondissement. We didn’t get a space in the nearest station though so had a little walk to the church. The crutch was not strictly necessary, but a good visual sign on narrow pavements, sending other pedestrians scuttling into the street to avoid me. We went to the Cathedrale Sainte Croix to hear my orchestra play the Dvorak Violin Concerto and Weill Symphony No. 2. (Took me back 14 years to another occasion when it was played in Holy Trinity Church Cambridge…) Got lots of sympathy from the orchestra in the interval, especially the double bass player, who also gave me a lecture on the importance of passive mobilisation of my 5th finger.
Sunday: D fills in the accident de travail paperwork
In France, if you have an accident on your way work, it counts as an accident de travail, with various repercussions for your employer and social security (don’t ask if it’s the same in the UK, I have no idea… ) Although I have autoentrepreneur status (similar to sole trader) for my translation and private teaching work, I requested a temporary contract or CDD with the engineering college, which makes me an employee. I actually did this as I thought it would make me eligible to teach at D’s university, which it didn’t in the end, but it turns out to involve a number of other advantages, mainly since your employer has to contribute to top-up health insurance. In this instance, apparently social security will reimburse some of my lost earnings from being off work.
Monday: Visit to Dr. Blanc
D’s insurance advised him that I needed to see a généraliste for a prolongation de soins as I was only signed off until Monday. It seems that they too may cover some lost earnings (for other work as an autoentrepreneur). Dr Blanc raised an eyebrow at my exaggerated limp, before asking ‘do you speak French?’ He filled in the paperwork to extend the arrêt de travail until Thursday as the reality of getting to work (1 mile downhill to the tram station/uphill on the way back) was looking a bit impractical. Overall the GP experience was not hugely different from the UK, just a larger desk and having to pay 23€ at the end (this should be reimbursed by social security).
I realised too late that I should have put ice on the foot in the beginning, but the hospital didn’t do this or suggest I should. However, I worked out that I was supposed to elevate it, so I installed myself on the living room sofa, left leg up on a pile of pillows/laundry, right leg supporting my laptop so I can do some translation work. Typing with 9 fingers is a little slow and I’m starting to get pressure sores from the limited range movement allowed by the sofa bed.
In the back of my mind, I did think it strange that my foot seemed to be getting more painful, not less, but it wasn’t until a beetroot flush appeared beyond the edge of the plaster that we realised something was amiss. It had been too painful to touch the floor since Monday, so I’d given up on the foot brace and taken to hopping round the flat on my right leg with a crutch under my right arm (the broken finger making the left problematic). Definitely not a recommended technique, but one I have honed pretty well by now. D has added ‘petit kangourou’ to my list of nicknames.
Thursday: Nurse D
We have learned a bit more about wound care now, thanks to some Whatsapp exchanges with medic friends and a bit of internet research. D has learned a new regime of dressing changes and acquired some more suitable kit to deal with my unsightly wounds: washing with saline (or ‘sérum phy’ as it’s known here), spraying with Biseptine, mopping up and applying Fucidin cream. I’m feeling pretty annoyed that the hospital didn’t give better advice in order to avoid this situation. As D said, everyone was so focused on the sprained ankle they didn’t think about the fact that the skin around it was not in a good state.
Friday: Back to Dr Blanc
When he comes to call me in, he is evidently surprised to see me hopping on a crutch rather than limping. ‘But you need two…’ he starts off in English, before realising he doesn’t know the word for crutch. ‘How do you say ‘béquille’ in English?’ I have to spell it for him. ‘Ah, like ‘clutch’ but with an ‘r’.’ Apparently his vocabulary is more extensive in the automobile domain. For my part, I am pretty amused to discover that the classic elbow ‘crutch’ is also called ‘cannes anglaises‘, or English sticks! There must be some interesting history behind that. When I looked up ‘how to adjust crutches’ on Google, though, all the American youtube videos seem to be about armpit crutches. Perhaps they should be renamed ‘cannes américaines’…