15 Juillet (Vendredi) - The day it all went to hell!
I was awakened around 03h00 with the most terrible cramp in my foot. Nothing I did could stop the excruciating pain. After an hour or so, the pain was making me sick, so I got up with the idea of going down to the toilet, just in case. Apparently, I made it to the bottom of the steps, where I passed out. I awoke some time later, gasping for air. No matter how I tried, I couldn't get my breath and breathe normally. I was laying against the bottom step and finding it difficult to move into a position in which I could breathe more easily. I finally was able to get to my hands and knees, and by leaning over could breathe a bit better but still not correctly. I tried laying flat on my stomache which caused me to throw up.
Needless to say, Robb was becoming more and more concerned.
I somehow managed to get to the sofa and sat there with my head on my arms on the coffee table. Robb decided to call for help. He consulted the guardiennne, who recommended calling les pompiers. They arrived and decided I needed to go to the hospital. Oh, and during all this, the only thing I was wearing was a night shirt and a towel. I got Robb to get me a pair of underwear so I wouldn't be totally naked and off we went.
I was taken to l'Hôtel Dieu, the oldest hospital in Paris, where it was determined that I must be moved to the ICU unit. ICU is interesting because they do everything for you. I was kind of embarrassed to be washed by two nurses.
I was in ICU for a week because they were supposed to move me to a regular room but had none available. All the medecins (doctors) and infirmières (nurses) in ICU were really, really nice and as friendly as they could be. There was kind of running joke about the food, which was the worst I have EVER eaten ANYWHERE. When they brought my first real meal, they asked how I liked it. I told them, "Comme la Tour d'Argent" (just like the Tour d'Argent, a very expensive restaurant in Paris).
After a few days the doctor came and told me I was moving to the other ward that day. A couple hours later, a guy showed up and said it would be the next day. That night, the night crew had a long meeting. When I told my night nurse (Alvee) I was moving tomorrow, he replied mysteriously, "Maybe". And sure enough, it was another day before I was moved.
When I got to the new room, I was the only one in a two-bed room. That didn't last long because they wheeled in another guy a couple hours later. I was somewhat disappointed because the ICU room had been private. The new guy, whom I dubbed 'Serge' because I think he was from Georgia (the Russian Georgia), spoke no English and his French was worse than mine, but somehow everyone seemed to be able to communicate with him.
That brings up another MAJOR problem; none of the doctors or nurses ever seemed to communicate with each other. Every time a new person came on the scene (which was almost daily), I had to explain my situation and hope they understood. Most of the time they did, but there were times when they didn't, and it was all because they did not talk to each other. One nurse actually told Robb she thought I was there because I had a drinking problem. I mean, we're talking very basic knowledge here people and she didn't know!
There were times in the new ward when I became so frustrated at the way they did, or did not, do things, I literally could have punched someone. An example....one night I had a coughing fit. I called for the nurse. She came and I said, "Avez vous an medicament pour arret le toux?" (Do you have a medicine to stop this coughing?). She ran out of the room, screaming, "The English, the English." So she sends in the most arrogant, obnoxious asshole in the history of nursing. The moron comes into the room, comes to my bedside, stares out the window (never looking at me) and asks what I want. I asked him the same thing I had asked the bitch. He replied, "Monsieur, it is night time. If you want to make changes, you have to wait for the day time." I swear, if I had had the strength, I would have punched him in the face. Thankfully, they were the only two who were less than professional and way less than friendly. After that night, I never saw the asshole again.
My medecin, Docteur Chevalier, was a whirlwind or activity. She arranged for us to leave by Air France. She arranged for an ambulance to take me to the airport and get me on the plane. She arranged for l'oxygene (oxygen) on the plane. The only thing we had to do was pay for the tickets. Unfortunately, it all fell through when Air France went on strike the day before we were scheduled to leave. But that was the last time I ever saw her. Everything else was done through her assistants, most of whom spoke only limited English. I don't mind speaking and trying to understand French under normal conditions, but this is major stuff here and I would really like to be sure I understand and they understand.
An example of that is when Dr. Chevalier arranged for the Cardif company to give me an oxygen unit to use at home. I simply could not make them understand that I didn't want the unit, and I didn't need the unit, so it sits next to me at this moment.
Here's a short video from my room.
1 Aout (Lundi) - Because we couldn't leave on Sunday as planned, I was dismissed from the hospital on Monday. Fortunately, just like in St. Johns, there is a hostel (Hospitel) on the sixth floor of the hospital, and Robb got a room with two beds to which we moved with a lot of mis-communication, complaining and swearing (mostly by me).
Okay, speaking of Robb. He was not having such a great time either. Because I got sick in the last week we were to be in Paris, he had to move from the apartment, because it was already rented for the time after we left. Luckily, the guys (Olivier and Romaine) from Ah, Paris were super nice. They got him another apartment (a tiny studio) and helped him pack and move. But our bad luck continued, he could only have the apartment for a week and after a couple days, the elevator broke down. There was no way he could get all our luggage downstairs by himself. Again, Romaine to the rescue....sort of. They got the stuff loaded into a taxi, but they dumped Robb at the entrance to Hôtel Dieu and left him to fend for himself. According to Robb, when He told Romaine about the change of plans, he simply went to pieces and couldn't cope with it. But Robb is pretty resourceful and got all the luggage upstairs to our room.
They wheeled me over to the hostel, but the day manager (a woman) would not let us in. She kept yelling, "This is a hotel, this is not a hospital." Over and over. We finally left and went back to the hospital. About a half hour later, the hostel called and told them all was well, we could occupy the room. So they brought me back. And that's where we are ensconced at the moment. My first night of freedom was not so pleasant, but I'm fine now.
We had a very nice dinner in the room...with wine, bien sur!
Speaking of 'in the room'; that brings us to the next really nice thing that happened to me. The Cardif company representative brought a battery-operated oxygen unit to replace the plug-in unit. He also brought a portable unit so I could (if I felt up to it) leave the room and go to a restaurant. The portable unit lasts up to twelve hours, depending on what setting I put it on. Again, he did all this for free. I'm telling you folks, when these people are nice, they are REALLY nice!
The current plan is to stay here for a week in the hope that I will improve to the point where I won't need oxygen on the plane. Wish me luck with that!
You can see ALL the Paris pictures at Paris 2011
À la prochaine, mes amis.