From piste to crutch Pt II

The journey to the hospital took about 45 minutes and was fairly uneventful.

They pushed me into the entrance and said I might have to wait a while.  This turned out to be more like 3 hours at least.

Actually it wasn’t so bad.  What they had was a long room either side of the hospital entrance and lined up along each wall were lots and lots of trolleys.  It wasn’t so bad as at least there were people to talk to and things to look at.  On my right was a teenager who had a broken finger playing basketball; on my left a white haired lady about 80 odd with a son and daughter-in-law (or daughter and son-in-law).  Opposite another British skiier and his guilty snowboarder friend who had taken him out (he just had a sprain though so was probably alright).

After 3 hours or so I was taken out of the long room and put in a corridor to wait for a scan.  This was actually much more boring as there was less to see.  There was a clock and it was 5:40pm. There was another woman across the corridor who looked just as bored so I asked her to help me remember the declensions of some of the French irregular verbs – je dois, tu dois, il doit etc

Eventually I went off for my scan and then was left in the treatment room alone for a while.  Now I was really bored as there was nothing to see at all.  It wasn’t too long before some nurses came in.  They asked me some questions (in French) and did some tests. After a while they gave me an oxygen mask and asked me  to breathe.  I thought they were just testing my breathing so took it off, when suddenly they yanked my leg up and started taking the bandage off.  They quickly told me to put it back on.  Perhaps the mask had some soothing gas in it or perhaps they just didn’t want to hear me screaming.  If it wasn’t for the pain, I’d probably be screaming at my 100 Euro bandages going in the bin.

After this it was a little hazy.  I think a doctor may have visited and then it was off to the surgery ward.  I had the doorside bed in a 2 person room.  There was another guy already in there, a Welshman living in the Isle of Man called Rob.  He had a broken ankle and had to be transferred to the hospital by helicopter as his ankle had broken inside his skiboot in 2 places.  He blames it on the fact his skis didn’t detach as they should have.

Kim drove down to visit me in the evening and brought me some stuff like my kindle and change of clothes.  He had spent most of the day sorting out stuff like taking my skis back and probably talking more with the insurance.  We had also told my boss at some point so she was up to speed.

I told Kim that he should go skiing the next day (Friday) as I would probably be having my operation and he could come and see me in the evening.  I was on nil by mouth overnight so it all looked promising.

Now earlier I mentioned about the French irregular verbs.  It turned out that I didn’t need devoir or any of that. There’s only 2 verbs you need in a French hospital:

  1. Faire le pipi – to do a wee
  2. avoir – to have as in “avoir doleur” – to have pain. Also useful for making the past tense of faire le pipi

As you may have guessed the staff were quite keen on me having a wee.  The problem is you can’t get up to go to the toilet so they give you a small plastic bottle to go in.  Now this is much harder than you might think.  It’s really unnatural and I spent quite a lot of time trying to produce the desired wee.

Finally in the middle of the night I was successful in my endeavours.  I rang the call button for the nurse.  “J’AI FAIT LE PIPI!!” I exclaimed triumphantly.  She picked up my bottle of amber nectar and I wondered what complicated scientific tests they were going to run on it. Instead she went in the adjoining bathroom and poured it down the toilet.  NO!!!

Still it could have been worse.  Poor Rob got to find out what happened when pipi was not produced.  It sounded very painful 😦

Friday morning arrived and all seemed set fair.  The nurses brought round a wash bowl, flannel and I guess carbolic soap so as to be nice and clean for the op.  I had a visit from the anaesthetist who asked some questions and he said he hoped the op would be that day.  And then there was the sound of a helicopter.  Our room was quite near the helipad so we could see it landing.  This was bad news as it meant someone was seriously hurt and not only that but I was bumped down the queue.  At some point they came and told us that it wasn’t happening.  On the plus side we could at least eat dinner.

In the evening Kim came in with Dave and Andrea.  They had at least had a nice day skiing in Chamonix.  Kim had booked a cheap hotel near by and so they dropped him off with our stuff at this hotel as they had to drive back to Geneva in the other direction on Saturday.

Saturday is normally quiet on the slopes as it’s changeover day but this Saturday unfortunately the helicopter arrived several times from 9:30am.  While we were both back on nil by mouth I wasn’t holding any hopes out.  This was a real low point.  At the medical centre they had said the operation would be done in France on the Thursday or Friday.  They had also said if I went back to England it had to be done within 5 days.  The 5 days thing meant that I could keep being pushed down the list and could still be waiting come Tuesday.  Kim and I talked and decided to see if we could be repatriated back to England instead.

I should say a word about my travel insurance at this point. I had annual travel insurance with Debenhams for some reason.  Fortunately, claiming didn’t mean speaking to Mr Brown in the Menswear department.  They had outsourced this to a company called Global response or Global Assist.  Between Kim and I we spoke to about 15 different people there at one time or another.  We rang them up to discuss the repatriation and they said they would talk to BA.   After a while they rang back and said BA wouldn’t accept me as I didn’t have clearance to fly.  So I was stuck.  There was also the matter of Kim’s hotel.  He found a better hotel nearer the hospital but the travel insurance co said it was full booked.  On the plus side he got to upgrade to a better room with a bathroom door (the first one just had a curtain)

Late Saturday afternoon rolled around and suddenly something happened.  They came to take Rob away for his op.  I texted Kim to let Rob’s wife Jane know.

Now  I should mention a bit about Rob and Jane.  They were both living on the Isle of Man and Jane was a nurse in the hospital there. Jane was staying in the same budget hotel as Kim so they went out for dinner together and kept each other company.  I was helping translate for Rob with some of the nurses who didn’t speak much English.

Now, earlier I explained about “faire le pipi”.  Now there was the matter of “faire le caca” to consider.  With Rob off at his operation it seemed like the perfect moment.  I pressed the call button for the nurse who told me that I had to wait until 8am.  I wasn’t very impressed. I should also mention that due to the delay in my operation they gave me an anticoagulant injection to prevent getting a blood clot.

Rob came back from his operation and it had gone well.  He had had an epidural and they put a screen over his waist so he couldn’t see what was happening.  They had headphones so he could listen to music but unfortunately the batteries were flat so he had to listen to it all.

The next morning they came in at 7am with the bowl of water and the carbolic soap.  This seemed very promising. The other good news was that there was a complete white out up on the mountain.

No visibility=no skiing=no accidents=no helicopter

No way was I going to jeopardise my op by trying to “faire le caca”

I had a visit from the doctor at about 8:30 to tell me my op was happening in about an hour.  Rob had good news that the doctor said he could go home on Thursday, which was promising and a hopeful sign for me too.

At about the time promised they came to wheel me away.  It was finally happening…





About loderingo

Blog describing my travels around the Americas
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