October 26, 2009

Chez médecin

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 5:29 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

I woke up rather early, on this, my first real day of vacation, to call the doctor I’d selected from the “Pages Jaune” (Yellow Pages).  I asked for an appointment, and a rather abrupt voice told me that the doctor had open office hours today beginning at 2pm.

I was nervous about having to go see a doctor, and I would have put it off if at all possible.  I don’t have my Carte Vitale (health insurance card) yet, and I specifically decided I would NOT. GET. SICK this year!  Clearly, my body was not listening.

The cause of all this distress? A urinary tract infection.  Normally I’d spare you all such intimate details of my life, but in this case it does happen to relate directly to how I experience France and French culture.  So we continue.

I began noticing the first symptoms Saturday night.  I tried to deny them, but they haunted my dreams.  Sunday I made up my mind that I would call the doctor.  To put it off any more would only make my vacation miserable and put my body in more danger.  I’m prone to UTIs and have been having them with greater and greater frequency over the last few years.  Don’t get older, kids.

Around 1:30pm I set off for the doctor’s office.  It ended up taking me much longer to find it than I’d thought, due to some bad directions from the online map, but I found her office.  And five other people waiting outside to be seen.  By that point, I already had to pee again.   I asked a nice, elderly lady if we were all waiting for the doctor, to verify I was in the right place, and she said yes.  And then started talking to me for the next hour, complaining about the wait.

The doctor didn’t show up until 2:30 (despite telling me to come at 2pm!) and after she unlocked the door to her office, we all filed into her tiny, closet-sized waiting room.  After another 15 minutes of waiting with no patients being called, the elderly woman gave up and left, wishing me good luck.  Only 4 people ahead of me!

I HAD TO PEE.  There was a small bathroom, but I didn’t use it in case she needed a sample.  I mean, at home my doctor always takes a sample and analyzes it in the same building.  I wasn’t sure if this was the same.  So I held it.  And held it.  And held it.  For nearly two hours.

Finally it was my turn.  The doctor was very nice.  We sat at her desk first, while she listened to my symptoms.  I told her, “It seems I have a UTI.” I mean, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’ve been through this and I know what it feels like. If you’ll just give me some drugs, we can all go home.  I managed to explain all my symptoms and answer her questions in French.  She had me hop up on the examining table while she poked at my kidneys  (and I tried not to pee on her table), and then she took my blood pressure.

She complimented my French skills and accent, which pleased me.  She said she had a neighbor who was American who had lived in France for years whose accent wasn’t as good as mine.  I need to send that in an email to my former professors!

The doctor told me I would need to go to a lab to get a urinalysis done, but she was going to give me antibiotics now anyway. PHEW.  She wrote the order for the lab test and the prescriptions, I paid her (22 euros) and thanked her, and then I USED THE BATHROOM.  There was no way I could wait until I got to the lab.  This proved to be a mistake.

Receipts and reimbursement form in hand (not having my Carte Vitale, I paid the full amount and will be reimbursed later…much later), I set off to find the lab.  The doctor had been vague…”It’s on the street with the tram.”  Yeah, that’s a really long street.  I found a pharmacy on that street first, and got my prescriptions filled.  Even using a generic antibiotic, it was still 23 euros for three boxes of pills! That’s expensive for France.  The pharmacist also gave me a reimbursement slip, and then gave me more precise directions to the lab.

French drugs!

I was seen quickly at the lab, and I knew the drill.  One problem: now I was empty!  I sneaked back out to the sink and swallowed some water quickly.  That did the trick.  What an ordeal!  I rewarded myself with Cadbury Chocolate Chip cookies from the market across the street.

I’m learning the ropes! Socialized medicine can definitely have it’s pluses and minuses.  It seems that Mondays are the only “open office” days — if I’d gone another day I might have gotten a real appointment and not had to wait so long.  But time was not on my side, since I leave on vacation Wednesday morning.  It’s definitely not convenient to have to go all the way to a lab just for a urinalysis.  But the doctor’s office was very intimate, and she was exceptionally nice and caring.  Which I appreciated, being sick and scared in a foreign country!

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