Watch Out for the Curveballs
Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2017
Monday 24th July 2017 – it was a long morning and despite the promise of going onto Pradaxa I was once again jabbed with Lovenox – not happy. I had hoped that I would have been transported to the much-anticipated rehab centre first thing, but it wasn’t until 2pm that the Ambos arrived.
While his partner organised the paperwork with the Admin girls, the young orderly [in his early 30’s I guessed] wheeled me on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance. SHIT!! Was it hot!! As much as I had been told there was no air conditioning in my room, the difference from leaving the ward to going outside was like stepping through the Gates of Hell. The Ambo told me it was 40*C and I hardly thought it worth disagreeing with him.
Once in the vehicle with my bag and crutches squeezed in around me, the guy went to work filling in forms, getting my Carte Vitale [Medicare card] and Assurance Mutuelle ready for arrival at the centre. What I hadn’t expected was to be asked to hand over a cheque to the value of €540 “just in case” the insurance company didn’t pay up. Thank God I’m with AXA – they are an international reputable company that have been around for years. In fact I remember having dealings with them during my time at Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance [later known as Promina and Vero Insurance] between September 2000 and December 2005.
That aside I was wheeled into my shared room, number 127 on the first floor and my heart sank. My room-mate, Tomas was an 80-year-old man with breathing difficulties on top of his recent hip replacement. He told me the breathing problems had been self-inflicted having been a heavy smoker for over fifty years.
Not long after the ambos had left, Mum and Lesley arrived with my previously packed suitcase. As I tried to adjust myself to my new environment Lesley did her best to put my stuff away in the small cupboard by the door. In the end I told her to leave it and I would sort out later. There were too many of us in the room, so Lesley and I took Mum back downstairs to the main foyer where there were some comfortable, though limited seating.
When Lesley and I returned to the room Tomas was hooked up to a breathing apparatus that was making a frightful noise. He assured me it was only used twice a day and only lasted ten minutes. However apart from that there was an awful stink emanating from the bathroom that hadn’t been there before making both me and Lesley cringe. A quick survey of the room indicated that this old man had no sense of courtesy or hygiene standards. Although a small room, if kept tidy, it would be liveable, but this chap had clothes stacked everywhere and the bathroom was worse than a pigsty. The TV was on so loud you could hardly think. Lesley and I retreated from the room with raised eyebrows and re-joined Mum. This was not going to be easy or pleasant as I had hoped – but what could I do?
I checked with reception for Wi-Fi facilities and was told it cost €20 per week. Lesley shouted me the first week – Thanks Lesley. They told me the TV cost €5.40 per day but I declined. Let’s face it with Tomas refusing to use the headphones provided any conflict of channels would make it unbearable.
At 6pm a meal was brought to me on a tray, but was told that from tomorrow the three meals would be taken in the restaurant – suited me.
It had been a long day and I was dog-tired. As it turned out it would probably be the worst night I have ever experienced in my life!
At about 8pm a nurse showed up with our medications. Because of the surgery I was not permitted to get back on the Pradaxa and I was once again injected with Lovenox. If that wasn’t bad enough she walked around Tomas’ bed, bent over, and switched on an oxygen machine that was to operate all night… Imagine listening to a jack hammer for a duration of about five minutes and then followed through with a thump from a bass drum. The process repeated, and repeated, and repeated all night long. Making it worse was Tomas refused to switch off the TV until well past midnight. By 4am I could take no more. I got dressed, grabbed the Zimmer frame I had been assigned and sat out on a small seat located by the lift desperately trying to get some sleep. A nurse on her rounds spotted me about an hour later and asked why I was there. I know it wasn’t her fault, but in no uncertain terms I told her. Not an easy feat with my French being so scratchy. She sympathised and promised to raise the matter. I reluctantly returned to bed to try and get a little sleep.
Fat Chance! The old sod opened his eyes at 5.30am and switched on the TV full blast. I was not polite in asking him to turn the volume down. He did so grudgingly, while I stuck a pillow over my face to try and shut out the remaining sounds and flashing lights. To make matters worse, as if they could be, because of my stitches I was not permitted to shower. So feeling dirty, tired, angry, and annoyed I quickly dressed and went straight down to reception. I requested to be moved to another room where the room-mate would show some consideration of others. I also told the girl in no uncertain terms that if they found someone else to share with Tomas he would need to be deaf, blind, and possess no sense of smell. The latter being that my bed was located next to the bathroom and Tomas would not bother to close the sliding door when sitting on the throne.
That afternoon the orderlies turned up and packed Tomas’ possessions and moved him into a single room. Later one of the cleaners told me I had been the fifth person to have complained about Tomas’ unsociable activities.
The bottom line is that ever since this establishment had been taken over by Le Pôle Santé Saint Jean organisation the only thing that matters is the bottom line. Patient care doesn’t count for much nor the workload imposed on the staff. I discovered later that at night there was only one nurse to look after over forty shared and single rooms.
At first sight the place gives the impression of a five-star hotel, or at least that’s what I thought when Lesley first drove me there prior to my seeing the surgeon, and then later when I checked out their website:
However it is only as an inpatient that you realise how false that image is. Don’t get me wrong here, the staff do their best with what has been dealt to them, and patient care which is their priority is somewhat lacking due to limited resources.
Meals for instance, for a country that prides itself on fine cuisine, the food that is dished up to us would make Gordon Ramsey cringe – I can hear his adverse comments ringing in my ears as I’m writing this. I would have to agree that at times I wouldn’t serve this rubbish to a dog. As one lady who sat at a nearby table said last night, the type of food is better suited to children. Compared to the meals I received at the hospital these are positively disgusting.
The portions are possibly adequate to an 80+-year-old with limited appetite, but to anyone younger, you’d have to devour a table leg to satisfy your needs, I was told the chef [if you can call him such] was limited to a budget of €3.40 per person per meal. The establishment has some 95 rooms, some are shared by no more than 2 persons per room, and there are a few single rooms.
My dear old Mum, whose mind never stops working [Thank God], mentally calculated that his approximate budget for meals would be in the region of €10,000 per week excluding the staff’s needs. On top of this the centre has to take into account all the supply of medication, physio therapy and equipment, wages, insurance, etc… Good old Mum, she always knows how to bring things down to earth, which is why that at 92 she still plays Bridge twice a week and takes pleasure at thrashing me at Scrabble at every opportunity.
That aside though, going back to nourishment, I still say that to withstand the rigorous physio exercises which are forced upon us daily [except Sundays and Public Holidays] to rebuild our muscle depletion after surgery, one would need more substantial meals than the menu and portions provided
An example of a typical day; yesterday’s menu for instance:
Breakfast: My most favourite meal of the day – You can choose either a bread roll, or biscotte, or a brioche; one cube of butter, one small container of jam, and a bowl of coffee or tea [black or white]:
Lunch, served promptly at noon, although these days, it seems to be getting later:
Starter: One lettuce leaf with a sprinkling of hard-boiled egg yolk for colour – no dressing.
Main: One large spoonful of couscous, and equally large spoonful of ratatouille, and a small piece of grilled pork, which an adult could devour in two mouthfuls. You are also given a small bread roll [which seems to be getting smaller by the day], and a piece of cheese. The latter varies from French Edam, French Gouda, Boursin, or another tasteless soft cheese. In their defence, the “Tome Noir” that was dished up at the hospital was exceptionally good.
Dessert: Vanilla Ice cream in a small pot [the type you buy at the supermarket in a pack of 4]. The only snag is that they provide you with a table-spoon rather than a teaspoon to eat it with, which means one has to use the handle to enable you to access the product.
Dinner [served from 6.45pm] is much the same as lunch. The only difference being the starter: namely one ladle of soup in a tiny bowl which conjures up visions of Oliver asking for more!
The main course consisted of a slice of ham, accompanied by a portion of pasta [the type normally served to children – hence my fellow diner’s comment] topped with cheese. I promptly chopped up the ham and mixed it in with the pasta and cheese – Alfredo style. My table mates looked on in wonder no doubt thinking: “Bloody English they ‘ave no idea ‘ow to eat French food”, but to my surprise each of them followed suit – so it looks like we are still teaching the French a thing or two about how to improve their boring meals.
Dessert was a strawberry mousse.
To Be Continued…
RLB – Tomewriter