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I really don’t have any right to complain about the French health service, in the eighteen years we lived here we’ve been treated fantastically; our GP arrived at 7.30 in the morning to see me after I turned over in bed and put my back out (the worst pain I have ever been in and absolutely no question of being able to get in a car so I could go to Urgences), when I discovered a lump in my breast on the morning of my father’s funeral and went straight to the doctor when I got back to France he said he thought it was harmless but I was obviously worried so he’d book me straight in for a mammogram.  He then apologised for not being able to get an appointment until the next morning.  I needed a cyst removing as a day patient, done within three weeks, when the side of my face blew up a few days before I was due to go to New York I was sent straight off for an X-ray just to check whether it was anything that might stop me flying…

That’s just about it really, since we’ve been in France I’ve had many more appointments with the dentist than I have with our doctor.  We’ve been living in this house for three and a half years and until recently I’d never visited our medicine traitant – he was on holiday when I  registered and I saw his locum instead.  I’ve been having problems with my hip, something which started when I was first pregnant, and even though I was pretty sure I knew what it was (and didn’t really want to have confirmed) I decided I’d better go and see the doctor as I’d feel so stupid if I’d been patiently suffering with something that could have been put right.

So off I go.  Things don’t get off to a good start because the receptionist had told the doctor my name is Courbis – I’d spelt it out for her but I reckon that the moment she heard my English accent she stopped listening and took a wild guess instead – and the doctor said I wasn’t registered with him.  We sorted that out, he peered at my details on his screen and said disapprovingly, ‘You’ve never been to see me.’  I explained I’d been to see his locum.  ‘But that was three years ago.  At your age you should be going to the doctor every year.’

At my age?  OK, he is about twenty years younger than me but I’m hardly at the blue rinse and zimmerframe stage yet.  He wasn’t impressed by my response that there hadn’t been anything wrong with me, at my advanced age I had to have regular check ups, in fact he’d do my blood pressure immediately because at my age it had a tendency to sky-rocket.  He’s a good enough doctor not to be disappointed at having to admit that my blood pressure was tres bien though he immediately said that it didn’t necessarily mean anything and I must have copious blood tests.  In the meantime I was trying to tell him that the real reason I was there was because I had a pain in my hip.  ‘It’s probably arthritis,’ he said, which I already suspected, ‘it’s normal for someone of your age.’  There are certain phrases you get very sick of hearing.

I visited the vampires at the laboratoire and have what seems like far too much blood taken and got some X-rays of my hip taken.  A week later I was back at the doctor who looked at the X-rays and said I’ve got arthritis (which I already knew thanks to the technician who took the pictures) and scanned my blood test results to tell me what I also already knew; that all the results were tres bien and I’m in excellent health.  Which is why I don’t go to the doctor very often of course.  However he still would like to see me in a year’s time for more tests.

As I’m a firm believer in ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ he’s probably being a bit hopeful.  I asked him what could be done about my hip and he offered me a weekly course of injections in my hip and back and seemed rather surprised when I said it wasn’t actually that painful so no, thank you very much.  Were there any exercises I could do that might improve things a bit?

Not really, he said shrugging, I had to realise that at my age…