They say all sorts of bad things about the French. They’re rude, they’re arrogant, they wouldn’t throw you a life preserver if they had 50 and you were drowning in the Seine. In short, everything I’ve heard about the French has been bad. Well, I’m here to say this, if you need help, the French are wonderful.
Our grand plan for today was simple – walk to the Eiffel Tower, get some churros, cross the bridge and walk back on the right bank. Maybe pushing as far as Notre Dame. All of that came to a quick end at the corner of Avenue de Sègur and Avenue Dusquene. MLW caught a toe on one of those poorly leveled curbs while looking at the Tower and went down hard, landing on her sunglasses which gave her a deep cut near the temple. Lots of blood. I rushed to get a compress on the wounds to stop the bleeding and while getting her cleaned up, a French couple parked their child’s stroller and offered to help us. “Can we call someone,” “There’s a pharmacy over there.” “Is there anything we can do.” I’d stopped the bleeding, so I thanked them profusely and sent them along. Another couple stopped and the woman gave me two disinfecting wipes, I thanked her too. We decided it would be best to put an end to our tour and head back, so we turned and went off. And this began our Tour of the French Healthcare System.
Once home and having a look, we decided we should do “something.” One cut was just a scratch, but the other was deep. So having no idea what to do here I called Georgina, the gal that set us up in this apartment. She first suggested the American Hospital, then said for things like this just go to the pharmacy, they will often just patch you up. I did a quick search and we went to the closest one, just up the block.
The pharmacist didn’t like the looks of it, said he could tape it closed but was sure there would be a scar, so he suggested we go to a nearby clinic, not far, 5 minutes on foot. He was even kind enough to take us outside and point down Blvd. Raspail towards the side street we needed. We thanked him and off we went.
Arriving, the place was deserted. We went in, looked around and while standing there clearly flummoxed, an older man asked if he could help us. MLW showed him the wound, he grimaced and said he had just started there as the janitor. He told us he was pretty sure that the place was completely closed but asked us to follow him into the elevator and took us up to the Dermatology department where two young women were closing up shop for the day. Lots of French talking went on and everyone agreed we should go to the nearby emergency room to see a doctor. Lots more French talking went on about that, including me and my not so great French, because while it sounded like a good solution, it wasn’t clear how easy it was going to be. Eventually, one of the young women took us all down stairs and called a taxi. He showed up in 5 minutes and after a lot of “Mercis” and “Au Revoirs” and hand-shaking we were on our way.
The hospital turned out to be quite close, coincidentally just a bit beyond that great fountain I described yesterday. We found our way in and struggled our way through the registration process, and found a couple of seats. Like every emergency room everywhere, it was mobbed. Hours we figured.
MLW was called by the triage nurse after only 15 minutes. Blood pressure, heart rate and temperature taken, we had a small debate about the pain killer she offered. Dioplane is French Tylenol, in case you ever need to know. It was a bit comical for me and two nurses to see who could find the answer first while MLW looked on bemusedly. Triage complete, the nurse told us to go back out and wait. Her estimate – about 2 hours.
It was getting to be well past lunch time and I was getting weak so I left MLW sitting there amidst all the sick people and fast-walked back to the apartment to grab a bite to eat, figuring it would be no more than 45 minutes for the round-trip. I estimated the way home accurately, about 22 minutes door to door. The way back, less so. First, I stopped to get us a bottle of water and second, it turned that my quick walk home had been largely downhill. Not so on the return. In the end, I was gone just about an hour.
Crossing Boulevard Point Royal and nearing the final right turn to the hospital, I crossed my fingers and wished that she’d be waiting outside. And sure enough, she was. She’d gone in 20 minutes after I’d left and been released about 10 minutes before my return. The doctor had cleaned up the wounds and glued the deep one shut and sent her off with a prescription for more Dioplane. And it was all free.
For fun we stopped to fill it at the pharmacy from earlier and had a nice chat about the closed clinic and the mobbed waiting room.  He said everyone goes to the emergency room even when they don’t have to. And it’s often a family affair, 4 people accompanying the one with the illness.
So, there you have my tale of those mean French. Four people stopped to help us out on the street. A pharmacist took the time to walk us down the block to see the way, a janitor took charge of us and enlisted two office workers to get us into a cab and six non-English speaking healthcare workers made it all right.
What a great bunch of people.