Sunday 27 January 2013

A Minor Medical Drama

Last Thursday I had my very first, in my entire life, appointment with a gynecologist. Don't worry -- it was just for a routine cervical smear test, but in Australia and the UK, this is done at your GP's surgery -- either by the doctor themselves, or more likely these days, the practice nurse.

According to Madame le Docteur Michèle Conort, some GP's will do it in France, but mostly you make an appointment with your gynecologist. Mme Conort's surgery is in rue Aristide Briand in Chatellerault, quite close to the river, in a series of buildings that are jam packed with specialist physicians of all sorts.

On examining me, she discovered a polyp the size of a large pea, so whilst blythely engaging me in conversation about the Baptistry of St Jean in Poitiers to take my mind off things, she cut it out on the spot. She says she is certain it is benign, but naturally has sent it off for a biopsy anyway. She told me off for leaving it more than the recommended 3 years between tests (quite right too).

When she asked me for my Carte Vitale (the equivalent of a medicare card for Australians) I explained that although I had an identity number and was clearly in the system, I had never been sent a Carte Vitale, and had never been able to find out why. She told me I was the third patient that day in the same situation, and I could see by the note she made to herself that the other two had French names, so it is presumably nothing to do with not being French (and besides, Simon was issued with his card ages ago). She had also run out of feuilles de soin (care record forms), which is how you claim for the fee reimbursement 'manually'. She apologised and said if I was going to be in Chatellerault next week for any reason I could pick it up, otherwise she would post it to me. My consultation cost €44, of which I expect to get half back once I send the feuille de soin to RAM.

I tottered out of the surgery in a bit of pain and was very pleased to see Simon waiting in the car right at the entrance of the building. He'd been amusing himself down at the river while I was at the doctor's, making movies of the raging torrent that is flowing over the sluices that once controlled the waters of the Vienne to power the arms factory.

We set off home and about half way I started to feel really weird. I said to Simon that I thought I was going to faint, and promptly passed out. Only for a few seconds, thankfully, and we drove the rest of the way home with my window down, solving the fainting problem, but risking hypothermia. I don't know what caused this uncharacteristic attack of the vapours, and can only guess that it was some sort of shock reaction. I got home, took a couple of paracetamol and by bedtime I was fine. I can't tell you how glad I am that I didn't drive myself to the doctor's though.
Weather update: In Preuilly, by lunchtime yesterday the snow was already mostly mush and the buildings dripping copiously. It's all gone now, bar a few solid lumps in the shade, and the weather is predicted to be wet and windy.

Meanwhile, news from my parents, who say: "We are now under the influence of the tail of cyclone Oswald. With severe winds and heavy rain at times huge damage further north with tornados. All safe here at present more severe this arvo according to the bureau. 28mm so far."


Anonymous said...

I haven't had my carte vitale either, but then neither has my best French friend... he's been waiting five years. I'm a chronic fainter. I once passed out in the doctor's surgery - medical issues make me queasy. It's strange I have so many relatives who are nurses! Not a job I could do.

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Hi Glad you are OK. That's the same medical centre I went to with my ear to see the ENT Consultant. Great place!

Niall & Antoinette said...

Glad you are ok and had a 'chauffeur' :-)

Good to hear your parents are ok. The images being shown are scarily impressive.

GaynorB said...

Hi Susan,

Good job you had a driver and glad that you are now recovered. Those split seconds when you are aware that you are going to faint are scary, as is light headedness you feel when you first come round.

It is unusual to have a procedure carried out like that. In the UK I'm sure you'd be given an appointment to come back. Still, the French way you didn't have time to worry about it.

Jean said...

It was shock, I'm sure. Which just goes to show how our bodies go into autopilot, regardless of how brave you think you are.

The good thing is, that's it over with for a few years so you can relax now.

Tim said...

I.m sure it was shock - glad to hear you're feeling chipper now. We haven't got our cartes vitales yet eit. Paulineer, but we only applied in December.

Susan said...

LJ: I'm starting to realise it isn't just me.
C&E: Yep, I reckon there can't be many conditions they don't cover. I'm due to go back there in May to see a completely different specialist.
N&A: I haven't looked, I must admit.
Gaynor: It would be ruthlessly done on the spot in Australia, so the patient isn't given time to get in a state about it, or dodge it.
Jean: Mammogram next...

Aussie in France said...

It might be different outside cities and large towns, but my experience is that most GPs have experience in gynaeological matters because most women (in cities) see a gynaecologist. However, that might change because my gynaecologist who is reaching retirement age says that there are no young ones to take over. It is still a speciality that doesn't require a referral in the French system. I don't understand why you don't have your Carte Vitale though. You should chase that up as it can be very useful when paying for medication.
Glad to hear you're OK though.

Susan said...

Fraussie: you can chase up your carte vitale till you're blue in the face, but it still doesn't get issued. The more I mention this to people the more I hear of others in the same situation. It seems to be linked to being someone, French national or not, who was not issued with one when the cards first appeared as part of the system. I've heard several stories from French people who were resident in other countries and have come back to France and waited years to get a carte vitale. My suspicion is, in my particular situation, it is the disparity in the facts that my birth certificate says I was born in Australia, and my passport says I am a British (and therefore EU citizen). Simon's passport and birth cert both say British, so he is a relatively text book case. The returning French citizens I've spoken to say that in their cases, the fonctionneres just don't seem to grasp why they haven't always had a card.
Anyway, it doesn't seriously inconvenience me. The pharmacist can also issue a feuille de soin and I just periodically post of a little bundle of them to RAM and get reimbursed.

the fly in the web said...

I'm glad you made a quick recovery...shock doesn't sound much when said...but experience of it is something else.

When we moved to France foreigners - even EU - were not allowed to access the health system so we took out private insurance.

When access became possible we looked into it, needing to know whether or not it would be more expensive than our existing arrangements and were met with a wall of bewilderment...

How was it that our income fluctuated?

None of your business...give me a schema of rates...

Can't do that...

Why not?

Because we decide ...

So we stuck with our private insurance.

Pearl said...

snip off a bit without freezing. yikes.

I'm a fainter so I know that feeling well.

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