03 September 2008

The big sleep

I can't seem to wake up. I guess I shouldn't complain. It's especially hard to wake up this morning because it is a gray, chilly day, with rain falling steadily.

Night before last I didn't sleep much, actually. I stayed up later than usual because I had to do a lot of preparation for the tests I was going to have done yesterday at the clinic in Blois. I went to bed late and I didn't sleep deeply. That's usually the way it is when you set an alarm for an ungodly hour. You just lie there waiting for the alarm to go off.

At 5:00 I was up and moving. A few years ago, when I was still working in California, that would have been a normal hour, or even a little late. I used to get up at 4:00 most mornings so that I could get ready and hit the road by 6:00 to avoid the worst of the commuter traffic. I'd be at work by 7:00 or 7:30. Nowadays, I get up at that late hour. Having shutters on the windows is great for sleeping a little longer in the morning. The room stays dark. I've always been somebody who got up with the sun — unless I set an alarm for an earlier hour.

Walt and I were on the road by 6:45 yesterday morning. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive up to Blois, and I didn't want to be late. The Polyclinique de Blois, which is not the same as the hospital, is north of town, just at the autoroute entrance. That makes it tempting to drive right by, get on the autoroute, and head for Paris. But we didn't give in to temptation.

We arrived at the Polyclinique well before 8:00. It was open, and the woman at the front desk sent us upstairs to the Service Ambulatoire. I was to be a day patient. Only one other man was waiting, and the receptionist checked me in immediately. She made some comment about my insurance status, but I didn't understand it. Then I waited to be called. Walt left to drive back to Saint-Aignan.

After a few minutes I was shown to my room for the day. The woman who called me in had trouble with my name, which has far too many consonants in it compared to a typical French word. Monsieur Bro-ahd-shoo... she called out. I've been called that many times since 1970, my first stay in France.

The receptionist laughed and told the nurse: "You have really mangled the gentleman's name!" The nurse looked sheepish and apologized. I told her not to worry, that there really wasn't a good French pronunciation for Broadhurst. I told her that when I had arrived a the Polyclinique a few days earlier for a preliminary appointment, I had asked to see an anesthétiste [sic] — and the woman at the front desk had simply repeated the correct pronunciation, anesthésiste. I was saying the English word in French, even though I knew better. I guess I was nervous.

Once in my room, which was not private, I was told to undress completely and put on the hospital gown and get into bed. So I did. I had to wait for about two hours before being taken into the examination room. Meanwhile, I had an electrocardiogram and was given what I assume was a mild sedative. I started dozing at that point, about 24 hours ago.

After I was wheeled down to what they called, I believe, the operating room — le bloc opératoire — several nurses came and chatted with me. In fact, at least four different people asked me how I planned to get home after the procedure was done and I was released later in the day. I kept telling them I had a ride. Only one asked if the person driving me needed to be called. No, I said, he'll be here, I assured her. Il est gentil alors..., she answered.

A couple of nurses asked me what the origin of my name was. I said it is English, but I'm American. When I said American, a couple of different nurses said, oh, yes, I can sort of hear your accent.

One asked where in America I came from and I said Caroline du Nord. She knew something about it, because she started to ask whether that was where the big cotton plantations had been, but then stopped herself and said no, that must have been further south, in South Carolina. I told her that was right, that in North Carolina we used to have endless fields of tobacco. Now that is rapidly changing.

Still another nurse asked me what I did for a living when I was over in England. No, I said, I'm American. Oh, well what are you doing over here in France? I'm retired, I said, and decided to come live here. Why France, and not America? she asked. I like it here, I answered. So you came over here, tried the food, and decided to stay... she said. She's not far wrong, of course. I also like the mentalité of the French people, I told her. It's not the same as in American. "I can believe that!" she said. I don't know what she meant, really.

I was under general anesthesia for the test so I have no memory of that part. It's the test that starts with a C...

I woke up later in the Salle de réveil, the wake-up room. A new nurse came over and chatted with me for a while. We talked about life here in the Loire Valley. She had never heard of my village, and she asked me what big town it was near. Saint-Aignan, I said, but you can't really call that a big town.

She said she had lived in Paris earlier in life, and I said I had too. She was there for a couple of years starting in 1980, and I told her I was there at the same time. It's too crowded, we agreed. Parisians are packed in like sardines. Spending a week or two there in an apartment is one thing, but actually living there full-time, in a small apartment, dealing with the weather because you need to walk everywhere, riding the metro in the crush of the crowds... well, it's just so different from life out here in the country.

I was wheeled back to my room, which had a big plate-glass window over looking the parking lot and the woods on the other side of the road. I dozed for a couple of hours. Then they brought my lunch: red beets, tomatoes, and grated carrots in vinaigrette. A salad of macaroni and tuna. Some kind of white fish flaked over the salad. All served on a china plate with real flatware, not plastic. It wasn't bad.

At one point I looked out and I saw Walt drive in. That kind of woke me up. I had to get ready to go. He came upstairs. The lunch dishes were still on the rolling cart. Lunch had come with a carafe of water. "Did you have wine with lunch?" Walt asked when he came to the room. No, just water, I said. "Well, they gave you a wine glass for the water," he pointed out, amused. It's nice to be in France. It's just the little things.

It took another half-hour for me to be cleared for release. Nobody asked me to pay anything. I was surprised. I had paid 28 euros for my first consultation with the gastroenterologist in his office in Saint-Aignan, and I had paid 28 euros for a consultation with an anesthesiologist, which was required. That was it. I think most of that 56-euro charge will be reimbursed by the national health plan.

We drove home without incident. I fully intended to resume my usual activities, but I found myself dozing on the couch all afternoon. Around 6:00 p.m., I got up and had a big bowl of soup. By 8:00 I was sleeping on the couch again. At 9:30, I got up and went to bed, thinking there was no way I would get any sleep overnight. I've slept enough, I was thinking. The next thing I knew it was 7:00 a.m. How nice.

Now I've had some tea and I'm feeling a little more alert, despite the gray, rainy skies outside. I need to go to SuperU and get some Comté cheese — that's what we would call Swiss cheese, but it's actually made in France and is excellent. SuperU has Comté on sale for a very good price, and it's the AOC, or best-quality, variety. I need to pick up a couple of other things, too, and then I need to go pay the man for the wood we had delivered over the weekend.

It's nice to be back to a normal routine — and eating a normal diet. Oh, and the test results were very good.


  1. Glad to hear the results were good - and the food OK. I remember when my father was rushed into hospital one Christmas Day, and we all had the (UK) National Health Service Christmas lunch, how suprised I was at how good it was!

  2. Happy that all went well. Those experiences are always worrisome. As a nurse, I hate to relinquish control. As a patient, I really don't want to know what they're doing. So "the big sleep" is a relief! Here, in most medical institutions, food is extremely boring, mostly bland, and served in plastic and paper containers on a disposable tray.

    No wonder, when I was in Rehab, staff and I were drooling over yours and Walt's posts.

  3. Too bad you didn't have your camera for us to see that nice hospital lunch that was served. I've never been inside a French hospital and enjoyed hearing about your experience.

    I'm glad that your day went well.

  4. I'm glad your day, and the test, went well, too :)) I like that when one has "the test that starts with a c ", one is completely out of it before anything happens, and everything is completely over by the waking-up time :) Here in the U.S. we sure didn't get lunch out of the deal! :))


  5. Ken
    Happy that all went well. I will undergo the same thing in two weeks time. Well on the eve, i will have to be on the clear liquid diet....on a sunday.
    No lunch at the hospital though.

  6. Glad you survived not only the procedure, but also the prep leading up to it (far worse, IMHO). I'm jealous though -- I was in and out of the clinic in less than two hours -- no lunch of any kind, much less tasty French food.


  7. Good to hear that the results are good, Ken.
    I went through the same experience several times. When I was in my forties, I resumed my activities right after the surgery.
    Nowadays, like you, it takes me a day... or two to recover.
    By the way, better for YOU to have beetroot than for me! I wouldn't have touched them!

    I hope you won't be angry at me for tagging you here. http://vieuxcestmieux.com/2008/09/03/rentree-en-fanfare/

    You can always tell me that you are too sleepy to do it :))

  8. Oh, fun, the c____ test! I'm glad your results were good and now it's over.

    The worst part of my first c___ test was when the anesthesiologist told me the results of the World Cup opener, which we didn't want to know since we'd taped it to watch after the test. I hoped I'd have forgotten when I came out from under, but no such luck.

  9. Err...I hesitate to get personal, but curiosity overcomes me...are all you people having colonoscopies in a sort of pre-emptive way, with no other indications apart from reaching a certain age?
    It may be standard procedure here in the UK too, but since I dislike my doctor and have not been to him for several years perhaps I have slipped through his net. Also I'm probably slightly younger than most of you.
    Anyway, I am very pleased the test results were good, Ken.

  10. Susan,

    Here in the US colonscopies are usually done at age 53 and then 10 years later. I did this, but actually should have had another colonoscopy at 55 since my mother had colon cancer. I thought I was doing the right thing since my mother lived to be 88.

    I learned the hard way and discovered my colon cancer in 2006. I am fine now, but had to have two surgeries, plus chemo and radiation to recover.

    Colon cancer is very curable if caught in time. It often strikes people in their sixties.I was 61.

  11. Susan, the colonoscopy was at my initiative because of results I got when I had my first exam at the age of 50. That first one was recommended by my doctor in San Francisco. The results were not wholly negative, but left some doubts in my mind. Anyway, I had my reasons and I'm happy to know now that all is well.

    I also had the example of Evelyn, who is a dear friend, and of an old high-school friend of mine back in North Carolina who died of colon cancer a couple of years ago.

  12. To add to what Evelyn said, most US doctors encourage their patients to have either a colonoscopy or a simpler (but more painful) procedure, a flexible sigmoidoscopy, at age 50. The FS is less invasive, but is also typically done without anesthesia! Ouch. The prep for a FS is also less, um, thorough. None of it is a walk in the vineyard, but worth it in terms of peace of mind.


  13. I had a "c" procedure a few years ago but was conscious throughout. They may have given me a mild tranquilizer but I certainly was able to watch a good bit on the tv screen. Actually the whole thing was easier for me than having work done at the dentist's. Glad all the tests were negative.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?