Thursday, April 30, 2009

One From the Archives

The past week and a half in Perps has been spent dodging rain drops, shivering in a shower without hot water (something’s going on with my hot water heater, though I don’t know what), and watching the Wire with Kili, while crying over the fate of Bubbles and the other characters in the show. Not much to blog about. To please the readership, to keep you interested (particularly in the dwindling days before my return), I’ve decided to pull one from the archives—an experience I didn’t blog about, just in case a situation like this ever arose. Actually, I just didn’t think it was that funny or interesting at the time, but it’s better than recounting days passed watching movies in my studio.

A few weeks ago, one of the other assistants who I’ll refrain from naming (and no, that is not a convenient way of masking that the story is actually about me—I feature too prominently in it in a different way) had a UTI, and we had to take her to the doctor’s. As employees/temporary residents of France, we are all supposed to have health insurance, primary care physicians, and the like, but I find medical coverage absolutely baffling in my own country, let alone in a foreign country where I am not a native speaker of the language. Going to the doctor was a daunting task. A few of the assistants and I were walking around downtown when we decided we needed to take UTI-girl to the doctor, but we had no idea where a doctor’s office would be. We finally ended up just going into an eyeglasses store and asking the optometrist for directions to the closest office, and he directed us to one just up the street.

Doctor’s offices in France (and Europe in general, I think) are not held in huge medical complexes or business parks, but in regular neighbourhoods in normal houses—you’ll see a placard reading Docteur or MĂ©decin or whatever, squeezed right in between two normal residences. Because it was just a normal house, we weren’t sure if we needed to knock, ring the doorbell, or just walk in—it seemed a little weird to us. There was a sign reading, “ring bell for emergencies”, and it seemed like an emergency; we didn’t have an appointment, and we needed treatment for UTI-girl immediately (she had been trying to self-medicate using cranberry juice cocktail and cranberry supplement pills. not quite as effective as antibiotics). I for one was expecting a crotchety old grumpy French man to come to the door in a lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck, but instead a young dashing twenty-something answered our call, and you could actually see all of us girls cringe in sympathy as UTI-girl had to explain her girl-problems to Hottie McHotterson. Or rather Hottie LeHotterson.

UTI-girl didn’t want to go into the office by herself, so I went in with her while the other two girls waited in the salle d’attente. UTI-girl and I tried our best to explain the problem in semi-broken French, gave her personal information (name, DOB, etc), and made some small talk about what we were doing in Perpignan. The doctor requested a urine sample, just to be sure she actually did have a UTI. BUT. Instead of handing her a cup and showing her where the bathroom was, he hands her an effing paper stick. You know those tester strips for perfume that they have sitting in cups in department stores? THAT is what the doctor handed UTI-girl. He wanted her to pee on that. Jesus, France.

UTI-girl left to do her business, which left me sitting in the doctor’s office, with the doctor, waiting. It was one of the most awkward things I have ever done. We kind of sat there—I obviously had nothing to do, so mostly I just looked at my hands. He did some work on the computer. At one point, we both looked up at the same time, and it would have been awkward not to acknowledge how awkward it was. So we laughed a little about that, he made a joke about how UTI-girl must have gotten lost, et cetera. And then. And then. To continue the small talk, the doctor mentioned that UTI-girl’s French was very good, and then said, “Yours is great, too, of course, but at her age it’s remarkable to have French that advanced.” Oh my god.

UTI-girl is 20 years old, and doesn’t even actually look 2 years younger than me—we look the same age, more or less. But this doctor, this dashing, successful, French doctor, assumed I was old enough to be OUT of UTI-girl’s age bracket. How old did he think I was, 40? Did he think I was her mother or something ridiculous like that? I was affronted. I couldn’t believe it. How haggard must I have looked?

I didn’t, obviously, say anything about it to the doctor. Right afterwards, UTI-girl walked back in, holding a pee-soaked stick. She held it out towards the doctor, asking, “C’est bon?” which roughly translate to “is this ok?”. He took the paper from her, did something to it, and then responded, “oui, c’est positif”. Never, I repeat, NEVER, just say something is ‘positive’ to a young girl when you’ve just asked her to pee on a stick. Please just qualify that by saying, yes, it’s positive for a UTI.

We’ve all heard (thank you, Michael Moore) about France’s excellent health care system, but none of us really have had the chance to experience its wonders. It’s so incredibly different than the American system—I can tell this even from the small amount of time I spent in that doctor’s office. Before we left, the doctor wrote UTI-girl a prescription, and tallied up the bill. For an unannounced doctor’s visit to a doctor who was not UTI-girl’s primary care physician, without health insurance (she didn’t have her health insurance card on her, and so was actually charged. Had she had the card, it most likely would have been all covered. She can also put in some forms to get reimbursed for the money she did pay, although this is France we’re talking about, so she might not get the money for four or five months), UTI-girl paid 25 euros. The drugs that she picked up at the pharmacy? Ten euros. If the French can do three things right, it’s bread, wine, and medicine.

1 comment:

Chelsea said...

What a lovely story, particularly involving a UTI. I just slightly overcooked my cottage cheese pancakes while reading it - whoops.