French Hospitals

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The wonderful thing about Paris is that after 25 years in the City of Light, one can still find new things to do, new facets of the city and the French people to discover. So in my never-ending quest for novelty (am I laying this on too thick?) a few weeks ago, I went to a French hospital, and not just as a field trip, but for real life surgery, where they put you out and cut you open.  Now, I’m no sissy, and I wanted the true native experience, so I didn’t go to the American Hospital in Neuilly.  I’ll leave that to Princess Stephanie of Monaco and Sylvester Stallone.  Wimps.  I went to a French hospital, Assitance Publique.  I’d rather not mention which one, in case I should ever have a relapse. Preliminary to going in, I of course had had appointments with specialists, surgeons and the anesthesiologist.  I’d had x-rays, blood tests, urine test, an EKG, all to make sure I was healthy enough to survive the operation, and to make sure the surgeon would find what he was cutting for. So I arrived at the hospital at 2 p.m. on a Thursday for an operation scheduled Friday afternoon.  It seemed a bit early to go in to me, but who am I to argue with French bureaucracy.  Even Sylvester Stallone and Princess Stephanie of Monaco wouldn’t argue with French bureaucracy.  Not if they know what’s good for them. I went to admissions, exchanged some papers and was sent up to the service.  Everything normal, so far.  I gave them my admission form.  And they asked if I had my dossier with me.  No.  I leave it with the doctors there; it’s thick and large with x-rays and test results.  Fine, would you mind sitting here – in a hallway – for a moment.  Okay.  I had brought a book with me so I started reading.  After almost a whole chapter a nurse came over.  Did you see a doctor here yesterday?  No.  Perhaps he had your dossier?  No, I haven’t seen a doctor here in ten days.  Do y ou have your dossier with you? No.  Do you leave it at home?  No.  Now, I used to read Sherlock Holmes when I was little, so I know something about putting clues together, and I was starting to wonder if maybe someone – not me – had lost my dossier.  But I wasn’t reading Sherlock today, so I went back to my book.  “Will in the World” by Stephen Greenblatt.  Want my review?  It’s a good book if you don’t know anything about Shakespeare and you don’t especially want to know anything about Shakespeare.  Nothing new that isn’t made up and silly.  How do you write the sound of a fart? I look up at the end of a chapter to see a huddle of doctors and nurses, some stealing glances in my direction.  This time a doctor comes over to me.  When’s the last time you saw a doctor?  About ten days ago.  Did he have your dossier?  Yes.  Did you keep it?  No.  Do you have it at home?  No.  I’m now getting a bit bold, so I venture, Is my dossier lost?  Am I going to get to go home early?  Oh, no, no, no!  I’m just checking the facts.  Nothing is lost .  Don’t worry, you’ll be operated on tomorrow. This is all starting to seem a little “louche” (a ladle, literally, but you could translate it more adventurously as fishy, “poissonesque”).  What was going on here?  But, then I remembered those magic words: French bureaucracy.  So I went back to my book.  Another nurse came over to me.  Did you leave your dossier with your personal physician?  No.  Well, your room isn’t ready yet, so maybe you’d like to take a little walk?  You could arrange for the telephone and television while we’re getting your room ready.  Sure, why not?  I was getting a little tired of that hallway and of my book. Anyway, after a little walk around the hospital grounds in the cold rain, (but I had my pipe with me, so it was okay) and some more waiting in the hallway, and some more of my book, they finally put me in a room, just in time for supper.  “Hospital food” is an international language all by itself, so there’s no need to say anything about it.  So I only had time to set aside my untouched tray when the head surgeon came in, followed by a gaggle of lesser doctors, interns and nurses.  The head surgeon solemnly explained to me that to due to a scheduling problem, my operation was being cancelled.  As soon as they could re-do the schedules of the surgical staff, I’d be informed of the new date of the operation. I said, with an almost straight face, and maybe you’ll find my dossier by then.  He was surprised!  What?  Is there a problem with his dossier?  No, this is strictly a problem of scheduling.  And after he left, the head nurse held back so she could explain the checkout procedure and to assure me that they would certainly find my dossier soon. So, now in addition to my normal fears about being cut open, and I have been known to pass out at a blood test – not even my own blood test – I had to worry about putting my life into the hands of people who would tell absurd, contradictory lies about a missing dossier.  But, keep in mind, I was in a lot of pain and would be until they operated on me. Four days later, my surgeon called to reschedule my operation in a week and to explain that two emergency cases had arrived the…
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