French hospitals

Excellent places, French hospitals. Well, not so much at 11:30 at night, when you're sitting in a corridor on one of those beds with the fold up handles to stop you falling out. But otherwise, good places. Friendly doctors and nurses. (Shame about the admin staff, who, to be fair, were probably as knackered as I was. But still, a little empathy and compassion probably wouldn't have killed her...)

On Sunday, I had an allergic reaction to something I ate - presumably, though not definitely, nuts. I'm hoping it's nuts - I can cut nuts out of my life fairly easily, though the lack of yet another thing I could eat isn't exactly fun. If it's not nuts, who knows what it is. Anyway, before that got to the throat closing Oh-my-god-I-think-I'm-going-to-die terrifying stage, it started with a persistent cough, trying to clear my throat and never succeeding, with less and less oxygen getting through. Which isn't fun, but isn't imminently a sign of the Apocalypse. Or hadn't been, prior to Sunday. So, when it started again last night (despite not having eaten anything with nuts in, or anything prepared out of the house) I was in two minds as to whether I ought to do anything about it. Urging from my parents and boyfriend later (yes, I really am that incapable of making decisions about myself; miracle I survived this long, really, isn't it?) and I took the medicines the doctor had given me after the weekend's mess, which helped a bit. But then it came back.

Her firm suggestion that if it came back, I was to call the SAMU on 15 (the emergency healthcare number here, like 999 in the UK or 911 in the US) ringing in my ears, I decided we should make our way towards the hospital, just in case. My lungs felt like they were filling with fluid and the top left of my chest hurt - I figured if anyone else told me they had these symptoms, I'd tell them to fuck off to the hospital asap. So we went, though it wasn't developing the same way as it had on Sunday. But if I were going to deal with it, I wanted it to be at a normal(is) time of day, rather than 2 in the morning. And my breathing was feeling wheezier by this point.

A long queue to get seen, with people with more urgent illnesses pushing in ("Ah, your finger is practically severed and you're bleeding? Do go right on ahead, I can wait.") and they sat me on the aforementioned wheely bed, took my temperature (which was high) and my blood sugar levels (which were presumably normal, since no one mentioned them) and hooked me up to one of those pulsereading machines, with the finger clip thing. Then asked what happened. When I explained, they told me my intial tests they'd done were fine, but they'd like me to see a doctor, just in case.

Had I known it was going to take another hour at that point before I saw a doctor, I might have walked out. I was feeling better, they'd checked I wasn't instantly going to die, the room they left me in was full of sick people, and I feared I might catch something actually serious. Later they wheeled my wheely bed into its own private cubicle - the room had about 15 little booths lining the side - like little meeting rooms, but without the glass walls, into which we were wheeled one at a time when they became free. It was an improvement on the corridor-lining I had been doing, but this was now 45 minutes or so later, and I still hadn't seen a doctor.

Another set of nurses came in and took some more details, and then finally a doctor came in. I had the luckiness to have two doctors - a trainee and a real doctor, both fo whom were lovely and not at all put out that I was apparently wasting their time. They said I was right to come in, but that the tightness in my chest and the allergic reaction weren't linked - it was a coincidence on Sunday that they happened at the same time. They did lots of listening to me breathe to check my lungs were clear, hooked me up to an ECG (those little sticky things have strong glue on them!) and then finally let me go.

Or at least, let me go and join another queue, to get my papers from the most bad-tempered admin woman I've ever seen, so I could come back another day (sooner, rather than later, was the clear message) to pay. If only I had a Carte Vitale; I'm hoping just for a quick checkup and an ECG, it can't cost that much. It's not like I had blood tests, which were the hugely expensive bit last time... Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The trip back took even longer than I thought. We left the hospital at about half past 12, intending to get a 12:53 train back home. We arrived in time, sat on the train, and it didn't go anywhere. At about ten past one, the security people came round and made us all get off, because there weren't any more trains running.

To their credit, SNCF did do a good thing - they arranged, and paid, for taxis for all of us to get home, and were actually friendly. I've never seen a friendly SNCF person, so it was somewhat of a shock, particularly when he said "of course you won't have to pay for the taxi", as if this level of customer service from the SNCF were a given. So, thank you very much SNCF - I hop your strike goes well today. (Though it would be nice if you could work on getting your scheduled trains to actually run, before deciding that the way forward is just to run less trains. Still it means I can put off going to pay the hospital, because of the grève...)

Even so, it was 2am by the time we got home. A long, long night.

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