Watch Out for the Curveballs
Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2017
Author, Robert L J Borg’s 4 week experience with the French Medical System including his personal thoughts and ramblings during that time
[May offend some people; not for the faint-hearted or weak stomached – if this is you please don’t read]
A friend asked why I chose such a title as not many people would understand the term used in North American game of baseball. Quite frankly as both he and I knew the meaning despite not being fans of the sport, it is quite likely that others will know that it means something that comes at you unexpectedly. For some unknown reason the reference to it made sense for the four-week experience I encountered between 19th July and 18th August 2017 with the French medical system.
To some background for you first; I was diagnosed with osteoporosis many years ago. As a result my hip joints have been eaten away slowly to the point where after putting up with the pain for almost 17 years I said enough was enough.
Secondly, and probably more important so you don’t get confused, I am actually typing this 5-6 weeks after the op and one week after I got back home. The original was hand written and the notes were being put to paper after the event, in some cases, because I kept on dropping off to sleep, the writing is erratic.
The journey for the hip replacement began on 2nd June with my visit to the Hospital de la Fontone in Antibes located on the Cote d’Azur in southern France to see the Doctor Jean-Yves BOHIC who is the head of Orthopaedic Surgery. I had taken some x-rays dating the previous month for him to look at. As soon as he glimpsed them he turned to me and said “when do you want to come in?” I expected to go onto a list like one does in the UK or Australia and wait, but this is France and surgery is when there is a slot available in the surgeon’s busy schedule.
I asked him which hip should be done first. His answer stunned me. He said: “You choose, they’re both as bad as each other.”
Blimey!! Well since it was the left hip that had begun the pains sometime in 1999 I chose that one. I had hoped they could have done both at once, but for reasons of safety during my recovery process they only do one at a time. It makes sense, but no sooner that I had committed myself in having the left hip done, the right one was screaming at me.
Dr Bohic led me back out to his secretary, Michelle who checked his diary and booked me in for surgery on 20th July at 8.30am. And just like that I was off on a journey of uncertainty.
I was told I would need to come in the day before surgery, but several tests would need to be carried out first at my expense. Thanks to the French equivalent to Medicare, the l’Assurance Maladie which has a reciprocal agreement with the National Health Service in Britain, I was covered. Although becoming an Australian citizen in July 1991, I have always, since birth, been a British subject and hold dual nationality. Having completed my first 17 years of my working life in the UK it meant that when I attained retirement age I qualified for l’Assurance Maladie. To pick up any gaps I have also taken out a health insurance policy [known as l’Assurance Mutuelle] with the French insurer AXA. Unlike Australia where you will always be out-of-pocket for something, in France you never will be unless it is so small it hardly matters.
There were four things I had to do:
- Get a detailed scan of my left hip.
- Obtain clearance certificates from a cardiologist and a dentist.
- Answer a heap of questions regarding my medical history, before visiting the anaesthetist who would knock me out.
Having gone through all the motions required I fronted up at the hospital with my mum and sister, Lesley for moral support, as instructed at 4pm on Wednesday 19th July and were ushered into a single room, number 2312 which was to be my home for the next five days. The view is pleasant and reminds me of the junction of Lane Cove Road and Lady Game Drive in West Lindfield, Sydney be it on a much smaller scale. Unlike the Australian location when I look to my left there’s no Bush, however the skyline is dominated by the Fort Carré d’Antibes, which is a 16th-century star-shaped fort of four arrow-head shaped bastions, that stands on the outskirts of Antibes, and beyond which is the vast expanse of the Mediterranean Sea.
I was checked in by two delightful nurses who took my blood pressure, blood sample, checked off my list of the numerous medications I have to take daily, and then left me a small container to fill a.s.a.p. No need to ask with what!!
When Mum and Lesley left one of the nurses told me that before going to bed I would need to shower with a special antiseptic liquid from head to toe. The process to be repeated after being shaved [not my face] the following morning.
I was given a light meal of something fishy, broccoli, a small bread roll with cheese and an apple. That would be it until lunchtime the following day.
By 10pm the pain in both my hips was so bad I requested pain killers.
To Be Continued…
RLB – Tomewriter