Saturday, September 29, 2012

an unexpected experience....

We took a week off the b and b to make our way back to Wordsley for a few days on 7th September. We knew we had no guests booked in so we thought it was about time to continue to clear more of our things from our old house. It was a smashing week, seeing old friends and also visiting my brother and sister-in-law in their new Rectory between Basingstoke and Andover.

However the week was overshadowed for me because I knew that when we got back Joe would be going into hospital. Just before we had left for England he had been diagnosed as being diabetic. He has been unwell for quite a long time but things moved rapidly when he tested his blood sugar on my machine and it registered 355 - for the uninitiated the norm is between 80 and 110. A visit to the doctor and a more extensive blood test confirmed that he was indeed diabetic. The doctor offered him 2 alternatives. He could go back and forth for tests to the hospital in Macon, or stay in for the week and have all the tests done. He chose the latter, so in the darkness at 6:30am on Monday 17th we set out for the hospital. We were (no, I was..) rather scared. We knew our French needs working on, would we understand everything? How would we be treated as foreigners? what would the tests reveal?
We got to the ward at 7:15, and were shown into a twin bedded room. Joe was shown which bed was his and then he was shown his wardrobe and then his height was measured, his weight taken, notes on his medication were taken and the doctor's letter handed over. He was then asked about breakfast and brought coffee and toasted biscuits to eat. His pulse, temperature and blood pressure were taken, and the nurse reassured me that he was not ill, only here for tests and that there was no need for him to be undressed and in bed...they were so kind to us, they understood we were struggling with the language and helped us by speaking simply.
After about three hours I left him in peace and was so at odds with myself that I managed to circumnavigate a roundabout at least 4 times from differing directions before I could find my way home.
The house felt very empty when I walked in but I made myself busy with jobs around the house and garden.
When I later returned to the hospital (free parking - please note Russells Hall and New Cross!), I found the other bed had been occupied by a really rather unwell looking Frenchman in his 30s who told us he had already had 2 heart attacks - however it did not stop him going for a cigarette outside.... He dozed and Joe got the benefit of the TV for which the Frenchman had paid! As the guy was only in overnight and the subscription to the TV finished the next morning quite early I asked Joe if he would like me to go to the TV office on the rez de chausee to pay for longer. His response really made me laugh. "I've watched both Family Fortunes and the Price is Right in French and enjoyed them no better than I did in England - so no thanks, I'd rather read!" And read he did - beginning with the hospital welcome book which proved really interesting - for example if you are in hospital - presumably as an emergency admission, you can ring a number to organise that your pets are looked after during your stay! Wow! There were nuggets of information - names of all the doctors, your rights as a patient, a leaving questionnaire - however Joe was not that impressed with the advert on the back cover for the funeral directors! Fortunately he had taken the large dictionary with him and this proved invaluable when we wanted to know what he was eating. His meals came piping hot with a list of what it was and a little "bon appetit! at the bottom - nice touch! A linen serviette came with the meal and the room had a table and chair so you could sit to the table to eat. Cutlery was metal! There was a starter, main course, cheese and dessert and the obligatory bread - 3 pieces of "flute" 3 fingers long for each piece! Coffee was served after the meal and in the evening a "tisane". Monitoring of Joe's blood sugar went on 4 hourly throughout day and night. He also had numerous other tests-cardiograph (he has the heart of an athlete - slow beating!). His stomach, kidneys and pancreas were scanned by ultra sound, His urine was tested, the back of his eyes was photographed. He was given cream to sooth his feet. In addition there were group sessions for all on the ward who were diabetic. By Tuesday Joe was asked if he would mind(!) moving into a single room as two friends were being admitted and wanted to share! He moved to the other side of the corridor and had a panoramic view over the Roche de Solutre and beyond towards the high Beaujolais hills. The ward was made up of single and double rooms and it was calm and peaceful and orderly. The patient staff ratio was high and everyone seemed to go out of their way to be helpful.
Together we went to 2 sessions on food - what was good and what was bad - and even in French I gleaned more than I had ever learnt in England when I was diagnosed almost 4 years ago. Water is you best friend - tap water. Drink loads. If you use mineral water do not stick to the same brand as they all have different minerals in them and you need a balance - change them each week! Red wine is OK - only drink it with a meal not on its own when it boosts fast acting sugar and can lead to a hypo...and so the advice went on...just so amazing. In addition the dietitian came to see Joe each day and wrote him a diet sheet which we are following at home - bread with every meal, cheese (yes cheese yippee) at lunch time and in the evening (30g each time)! Tea coffee and tisane when you like....even as a treat a vanilla eclair!!!! It was about balance, about not eating between meals and quite honestly after eating with Joe and preparing the food I can tell you that there is no space to eat between meals!!! And so the week went on...Joe is going back for an MRI scan on his kidneys to check for stones - just pop into the office on your way out and book an appointment Joe was told - and he did - how long is the wait - only 3 weeks....staggering.
What also I noticed was the level of hygiene - several times Joe's bed was changed and as to the way they cleaned well, I am astonished. The floor was mopped and swept regularly; when the patient sharing Joe's room had been discharged the bed was stripped, the mattress was washed with a disinfective on both sides as were the two pillows. The table over the bed was also wiped and not just the top, but the legs and underneath the table too. The upright chair was wiped down - back seat and legs, the table, and even the comfy chair for visitors.
When we left we were given the dietitian's mobile number at the hospital and told to call her anytime we had a question! Follow up with her is booked for November and follow up with the doctor in January!
What an experience! I have no fears about being in that hospital and being looked after so well.  Another new experience of life in France and another positive one! We are so grateful!

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