Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Mention France to anyone and more than likely they will think of French cuisine. The French are renowned for their excellent food and for the important role that food and meal times play in their culture and that is something that I have really come to appreciate.

After years of learning and appreciating the importance of meal times in families, I’ve now discovered meal times also important in a busy hospital environment. Twice this year I have been in hospital at lunch time and have been provided with food and watched as nurses, Doctors and technicians stop and have their lunch too.

The first time I was in ER and they were keeping me in to see a specialist. As I was there at lunch time they served me a tray of food. Nothing exciting. Just some mashed potato and something that bore a resemblance to chicken, along with a salad and yoghurt for dessert. But still, I was in an ER department, not exactly where you’d expect to get a free lunch!

The second time was yesterday. I had to spend the day at hospital in Lyon for testing and to see various Doctors. As I had to be nil by mouth upon arrival (and boy did I complain about that!) I was promptly asked what I wanted for breakfast and fed within minutes of my blood exams. How relieved was I? They certainly knew how to get me in a good mood and even when they told me they’d forgotten to book my MRI scan I was not that bothered.

After a morning of hanging around, having x-rays and enough blood taken to feed a vampire I had chosen to sit in the corridor avoiding all the sick people in the waiting room as I didn’t want to deal with any more germs than Baby Piglet brings home.
I was so engrossed in a novel that I didn’t notice it was lunchtime that I was taken my surprise when a nurse came and said that my lunch was being served. She seemed surprised that I wasn’t already in the lunch room with the other patients.

Off I trotted and was greeted by ten or so patients cheerfully tucking into lunch. I was asked to take a seat and then was served up a four course meal: red cabbage salad with a bread roll to start, chicken and almond tagine with vegetables and semoule for my main, chocolate éclair for dessert and yoghurt for my second dessert. Wow! Only thing missing was a bottle of wine!

To be honest the food was quite bland but there was salt and pepper available and it was more than edible. It was much better than a sandwich or McDonalds which I thought that I’d have to go out and get for my lunch (there is a McDonalds opposite the hospital). The chocolate éclair was heavenly and as I was later told by a Doctor to lose weight I am so glad they provided it and I ate it.

You’ve got to hand it to the French though, the food I ate yesterday was far better than some of the meals I paid to have out in the UK!

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I feel old. My frequent trips to and from the hospital in Lyon for my eye have meant that I’ve spent more time than I dare consider sitting in waiting rooms and hanging about in hospital corridors.


Whilst in the beginning I couldn’t see and Mr Piglet’s comments about how young the Doctors looked fell on deaf ears (I thought he was having a crisis as his birthday was coming up), as I waited on Tuesday, I was astounded by how young these Doctors were!


I cringed inwardly as I watched Converse clad feet, holey jeans and ribbon bracelets parade around in white Doctor coats. Spots, nose piercing and those weird things that make your ear hole get bigger were everywhere. I knew that it was a teaching hospital and automatically assumed that all these kids were just out of high school and on work placements.


But no! Alas! These ugly ducklings were fully fledged Doctors (or ophthalmologists) and were totally qualified to treat me. As I watched the young girl examine my eye and provide notes I felt as if she should be asking her Dad permission to stay out late (it was past 6pm). Thank goodness that there were more senior members on the team too although they only looked about my age. What happens to the older members of staff? Do they evaporate somewhere?


I have another question though – whatever happened to dressing up for work? I know they spend a lot of time on their feet but their clothing hardly looked clean yet alone suitable for a professional person. Maybe times have changed, they obviously have and I am obviously getting old.


I always assumed and was used to being treated by Doctors that were older than me not considerably and noticeably younger than me.


This is going to take some getting used to. I had better start putting plenty of anti-wrinkle cream on.


When was the first time that you felt old?

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There’s been lots of moaning on behalf over the last few months about the French medical system as I’ve not had much positive to say about it due to all the bad experiences I’ve had, however, today I would like to thank them for saving my eye sight.


Since I posted last week about the One Eyed Blogger, things took a turn for the worse and I ended up back in Hopital Edouard Herriot Eye Centre inLyonthe very next day.


One of the funny things about eye problems is that you can’t see. Actually it’s not very funny at all but you lose a lot of perspective and things that you take for granted. I couldn’t see the Doctors that were treating me at the hospital and whilst I know that there were 4 different Doctors that saw me last Tuesday I cannot say what any of them looked like.


My pain was so great I had a cover on my head at all times to protect me from the light. The Doctors kept referring me to someone else, it became painfully obvious that my case was serious and when the Chef de Service of the whole eye hospital came to see me I knew that something was majorly wrong.


The hospital made it clear to me that I had to go in every day for cortisone injections directly into the eyeball. This was time for me to get over the all consuming fear of hospitals and medical staff that I had developed since this summer. The first time they went to inject me, I actually crossed my legs and wriggled away screaming “non, non”. Obviously the trauma from my birth experience was still very real.


The team at the hospital were excellent and listened to what had happened. They offered me tranquilizers and explained why it was so important that they inject into my eyeball. They needed to control the inflammation quickly as it was getting out of control and as a consequence by sight was suffering.


Mr Piglet and I made arrangements for me to taken toLyoneach day. It was very stressful trying to organize child care, juggle work (neither Mr Piglet nor I were able to work) plus not know how long each hospital trip would last.


After a few days someone piped up that I was entitled to travel by taxi for my hospital trips and that Mr Piglet didn’t need to take time off work to transport me. This was such a relief and a great provision by the French health service. Not only were they taking care of my physical health, my mental well being and peace of mind was also being looked after.


So far my sight is improving, the pain is greatly reduced and I am no longer requiring daily Cortison injections. However, I have had to come to terms with my disease and realize that I need medication to help control it right now. This has been hard to admit as at the same time it means admitting I am ill. I have taken the decision to cease breastfeeding Baby Piglet even though I had not wanted to, I do not feel comfortable with the risk of her having medication via my milk.


This is the start of a new chapter in my life, a chapter which will redefine my role as a Mummy after only 6 months and a bit, a chapter which will redefine how I look after myself. Now is my time to get well and what better place for it to happen than inFrance?

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Thank you

A huge thank you to everyone who commented on yesterdays post – I have just seen the number of comments and emails and am overwhelmed. I want to say thank you now as Baby Piglet won’t let me get on my PC and until she does I cannot reply individually but I will as soon as I can.

The good news is that the hospital visit went well and they confirmed that nothing else had been “forgotten”.

The bad news is really secondary as Baby Piglet + my health are priority, but the hospital wouldn’t confirm in writing my visit on Friday. When I asked for a copy of my medical file there were no notes covering my visit at all! I did get the name of the Dr we saw on Friday so will be calling tomorrow.

Finally, some news I had forgotten to share as it has taken back seat to everything else: Mr Piglet and I will finally become owners of the country house we’ve been trying to purchase since the beginning of the year! The signature is set for tomorrow although we won’t be there and our move in date won’t be straightaway as I’m not fit enough but we hope to be in beginning of June (ish)!!! Finally!

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Since posting Baby Piglet’s birth story, things have worsened for me rather than improved and my state of health deteriorated to the point that I was no longer even able to move my legs in bed without being in a great deal of pain.

I’d had pain between my legs from the beginning, but the mix of giving birth and having a broken coccyx caused me confusion – I was in pain everywhere and couldn’t identify where the pain was coming from. I was scared as there was fresh blood as opposed to the post partum lochia, I had no idea where it was coming from but it terrified me. Surely this wasn’t normal?

As the days progressed, the pain became more and more excruciating. Trips to the toilet were howling sessions as I bawled my eyes out due to the pain. Nursing Baby Piglet became such as task as getting her into position was painful as often I would have to shift my position a little bit.

We saw a midwife and a Doctor as we couldn’t understand why I was in this much pain and where the blood was coming from. A urine infection was diagnosed and two types of bacteria found. Two weeks after giving birth I started antibiotics.

After a few days there was a bit less pain and I became hopeful. I got up and walked around for a little bit, happy to be out of the bedroom. I quickly had to return to bed though as it was like having glass between my legs.

That night the pain was worse than ever and the pain before had been bad. I swore I wouldn’t cry in front of Baby Piglet as I had been told baby’s were sensitive to emotions. That night I cried all night and couldn’t sleep.

The next morning Mr Piglet had had enough. He forced me to get up and took me to the hospital. An agonising car journey followed, with me sat on a rubber ring, semi laying down and hanging on for dear life, breathing through the pain.

The hospital (not the one where I gave birth) tried to turn me away, saying I should see a doctor but Mr Piglet insisted and the sight of a new mother doubled over in pain, biting hard into her lips with tears streaming down her face and fists curled up in balls must have made them take pity. I was quickly shown to a room and a doctor was called arrived instantly.

The doctor checked me over and in no time at all discovered something worrying, medical compresses that had not been removed after I gave birth three weeks prior. The look on her face was one o absolute horror, she appeared close to tears as she saw how much I suffered when she removed it. She hugged me in an attempt to make me feel better and to ease the pain.

Unfortunately the lesions I had suffered were too great and too painful so she was unable to examine me properly so as yet we don’t know the extent of the damage or if anything else has been forgotten… I hope to return tomorrow (Tuesday) for the examination to be carried out.

Once the compresses had been removed the difference was amazing. My pain was greatly reduced and for the first time in 3 weeks I could stand up straight. My progress has been amazing since, although my body is weak from the infections, I am able to look after Baby more like any normal Mum would do although only for short periods at a time. Large portions of our days are still spent in bed cuddling as I can’t get up for too long as I still have quite a lot of pain but everyday I progress.

Baby Piglet seems more contented and much calmer since Friday and I swear she has even started smiling at me!

Words can barely describe how I feel by what has happened: robbed, violated, disgusted, anger, fear and gratefulness are just a few.

My coccyx still hurts but does not stop me from looking after my baby. I have been robbed of the first few weeks with my newborn, moments that I will never get back.

I feel violated that during the moment when my most private parts are exposed the Doctor in whom I was supposed to have confidence could show such neglect and leave a foreign object inside me, causing damage and much pain.

Disgusted that such a medical error could happen in France, the country which boasts so much about its fantastic health system. How could they not have counted how many compresses they put in and checked how many they took out?

Anger for all of the above and for the fact that no-one noticed.

Fear for the future: for tomorrow, what will they discover and how much will I suffer? Will this leave me infertile?

Finally I am grateful that I am still here and that Baby Piglet is here and well. I could have had septicaemia and passed it to her through my milk. We could have died as was the case for another Mum who experienced the same thing, but we didn’t.

My experience has changed my outlook on life, I am grateful for everything I have and thankful that we are both okay when the outcome could have been so much different.

Needless to say I will be suing.

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Since her arrival on April 28th, Baby Piglet has illuminated our lives and been our source of joy and happiness whilst we continue to live in limbo.

This is her birth story, written quickly as a form of therapy for me. If you’ve never given birth or are squeamish you may not want to read, there may be too much information. It’s a long story but it was important for me to put it all down and I do feel better for doing so. I don’t know if I’ll be able to read it again for a long while though.

Ever since I was 28 weeks pregnant, I was told by the French medical professionals that I risked giving birth early and that I was to rest as much as possible. At 36 weeks, I was told that I wouldn’t make it to 38 weeks. Needless to say, when 38 weeks came and went I was disappointed and when 40 weeks came and went my disappointment deepened and I felt as if she would never arrive and that I would remain pregnant forever.

The day before her due date, I spent a sleepness night enduring regular contractions. They were coming every five minutes and were like nothing I had felt before. I had been scared that I would not know when labour arrived, but suddenly I had no doubt. This was it. After several hours of dealing with them (I didn’t want to go to hospital too early and be stuck on a bed), a hot bath and a manic rush to pack my suitcase, Mr Piglet and I set off for the hospital in Valence.

I had planned to give birth in Lyon and had spent considerable time selecting a hospital and then had all my pre-natal visits there, but with the house situation and the fact that we were still at the inlaws, a two hour car journey when in labour was not plausible so we settled for the hospital in Valence.

Upon arriving at the hospital I was examined and told that I wasn’t ready to give birth and that it wasn’t going to be for today as I wasn’t ripe. I was invited to go back the day after my due date (two days later) for a monitoring and was sent home with some tablets to stop the contractions and a sleeping pill.

How could I not be ripe? What did it mean anyway? Bitterly disappointed that it wasn’t my time and confused about being ripe and what it meant, I researched on the internet and then proceeded to eat a whole pineapple (which wasn’t very ripe either!) and was ready to face the onset of awful heartburn. I slept throughout the afternoon and had a few minor contractions but by the evening they were taking my breath away again.

Of course, I’d already been here and had these painful contractions, so I was sure that I was just a wimp and that these were yet more false labour signs and I was just being too sensitive to the pain.

At midnight the contractions were coming every ten minutes. Still not regular enough for me to consider them as being the real deal, I dealt with them as I could and tried to fall back to sleep in between each one. I’d been told categorically by the hospital that until they were five minutes apart for one hour lasting one minute for each contraction it wasn’t time.

I battled through the night in silence, whimpering to myself and trying not to wake anyone up. I dealt with the pain by stomping my feet, banging the wall and breathing. By the time morning came the pain was even more intense, each contraction would start slowly in my lower back, would reach up to my kidneys and then wrap around me and my bump and tighten like a belt trying to cut me in half.

At 7 am I tried to eat breakfast, I woke Mr Piglet up and told him of my pain. The contractions were still 10 minutes apart so we decided to call the hospital and see what they suggested. It was all pretty much déjà vu as I’d been through this the night before so we were reluctant to go to the hospital without checking first.

Whilst Mr Piglet was on the phone I took my shower and the contractions started coming quicker and quicker… 7 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes. I shouted that it was time to go, grabbed a hairbrush and whatever toiletries were close by and panic stricken off we set. Something was definitely going on and terror took over.

The car journey was hell. The contractions were every 2 minutes now and I seriously started to wonder if we were going to make it to the hospital. I didn’t even care that Mr Piglet was in the fast lane, driving at 150 kmh and more, flashing his lights with his indicators going. I think he was pretty terrified as well.

Thankfully the 45 minute journey was over in just under 30 minutes and we dashed into the hospital. By this point tears were streaming and I was beginning to panic. I was examined immediately and the midwife asked a colleague to check me as they couldn’t believe how much I had dilated. They told me to keep the figures to myself as I was over 7 cms dilated and that they would tell the anaesthetist I was at 5 cms otherwise I wouldn’t get an epidural.

The next instances were a whirlwind and before I knew it I was sitting on a bed with a big plastic sheet on my back and a mad woman whom I couldn’t understand was brandishing a large needle and coming towards me. As I glanced at Mr Piglet I could see fear in his eyes so I concentrated on deep breathing and prayed I wouldn’t get a contraction whilst she was putting the needle in. I had originally wanted to give birth without an epidural but the back labour was so excruciatingly painful I decided to get one, as after all its not the labour that’s important but what happens after and if Mummy’s tired then its pointless. Or so I thought.

As the drugs kicked in, the next few hours were wonderful. I could move my legs and could still feel my contractions but the pain had been taken away. I thanked the heavens for such a wonderful invention and started to look forward to meeting my daughter.

After a few more hours the midwife suggested that they break my waters as things had slowed down somewhat (hospitals always have that effect on me). They wanted to take this opportunity to push Baby Piglet down lower as well as she was still too high up and I was nearly fully dilated.

My midwife was fantastic and had a wicked sense of humour. She was mentoring a trainee midwife and suggested that he break the waters. As he came towards me with what looked like a knitting needle I was apprehensive and kept a close eye on him. I’m glad I did as what happened next will remain engraved in my memory forever. He went about what he needed to do and there was a great big gush of water that squirted out from me, all over him! It literally hit him in the face! The midwife burst into laughter as did I and the poor trainee quickly vacated the area, absolutely drenched. I could hear other people laughing in the corridors as he went to get changed. Poor guy!

After a while the ob-gyn came by and checked me and told the midwife that it was time for me to push. The midwife didn’t agree as she felt that Baby Piglet was still not engaged enough so she asked for another half hour. She did some more checks and discovered that Baby Piglet was actually sunny side up which would present a difficulty for the birth. She did what she could to try and get her to change position including putting me on the side, on all fours etc.

It was during this time that I felt the most pain I had ever felt. It was in my butt and came up my lower back. I was positively howling at this stage, what was my epidural doing? It had stopped working!? What seemed like panic broke out in the room and suddenly it was full of people. The Ob-Gyn was back, the anaesthetist was there again doing something to the epidural and there were other people I hadn’t seen. The pain persisted; I just wanted to get off the table and the hell out of there. I couldn’t imagine having to push and expulse the baby whilst in this much pain. I was losing my mind. The epidural kicked back in but the butt pain continued and started getting worse and worse.

Frantic talk occurred all around me, I was no longer fully functional and my French language skills were fading away. I grasped certain words: ventouse, forceps, c-section… I couldn’t care less, I just wanted them to put an end to the pain I was in.

They installed me and it was time to push. Suddenly I was so concentrated on the task ahead that I was no longer in pain. I didn’t even notice the instruments that the Ob-Gyn was preparing and using.

After what seemed like seconds (but was actually closer to half an hour), a blue lump comparable to an uncooked roast chicken landed on my tummy. My first reaction was “urgh, what is that?”! Mr Piglet then cut the umbilical cord and my baby was wiped clean and given back to me.

I was thrilled. The pain had been worth it. Baby Piglet had been born on April 28th at 1613. She weighed in at 3540 kg and measured 49 cms. I was delighted! She was gorgeous and I felt a need a strong need to protect her it scared me.

I vaguely noticed how many people were still in the room and whilst the Ob-Gyn continued to work on me, Mr Piglet and I sung “I’m a Little Pea” by the Red Hot Chilly Peppers to Baby Piglet. I do not know what possessed us to this but we needed to distract ourselves from what was going on and we felt as if we needed to distract her as well. Was this the first maternal instinct that we had?

Later on, back in the room, the epidural started to wear off as did the emotional pain killer of becoming a Mummy and as I got up to go to the toilet it felt as if my insides were going to fall out of my backside. Terrified I tried to explain to Mr Piglet what I was feeling. It was late, no Doctors were on hand to ask, we called a midwife who said it was normal and came back with an ice pack. I pleaded Mr Piglet not to leave me, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t move – the pain was so bad.

I didn’t sleep that night. I felt too bad. All I could do was stare at my beautiful baby daughter sleeping next to me and at my darling husband sleeping on the floor. This was not how I had envisaged things, I hadn’t had the perfect pregnancy, we didn’t have a home, I had hoped to have at least a perfect birth and be a smiley happy Mum in her bedroom with her newborn. I’d even had my roots done a few days earlier so I could look good in the photos!

I should have known not to tempt fate, I only appear in one or two photos since she was born and they were taken immediately after I had showered. Generally I was slumming it in the hospital night gown and had dreadlocks for hair. My suitcase and make up bag remained untouched.

Over the next two days my pain persisted and I was given paracetemol and an anti-inflammatory. It seemed as if the staff were annoyed with me and I was told that I didn’t look like I was in pain. My parents had arrived and were horrified when they saw me try and go to the toilet. My Mum broke into tears.

Mr Piglet had had enough and demanded that someone come and see me. I was in pain and even though it may not be visible to them I am quite a tough cookie (to have endured what I had already endured was proof enough) and I was over the moon with my daughter so I was distracted but it didn’t remove the pain. I was eventually taken for x-rays and later on told that I had dislocated my tailbone and that I would need to see an osteopath once I left hospital.

Leaving hospital in that state was not a possibility, I was due to leave the next day under normal French medical care. The staff were being nicer to me now that they knew I had a valid reason for sitting in bed in my PJ’s all day long. Mr Piglet demanded a copy of the x-rays as we couldn’t see how I could leave as I still couldn’t stand up. An orthopaedic surgeon was summoned (and appeared within an hour) on a Sunday, which in France is miraculous) and I was told that my coccyx wasn’t dislocated but broken!

By this point Baby Blues had set in and I was howling in misery. Upset I couldn’t look after my daughter I watched as her Daddy bathed, changed and cuddled her. She would lie next to me in her bassinet and we would look at each other but if she cried or if I wanted to pick her up I had to call for help. I felt so helpless all the time and the fact that I couldn’t even go to the toilet or wash myself was demeaning. This was a new lifetime low for me.

All I could do was feed her and it was if the hospital were set against me breastfeeding so I really had to fight for the only thing I had to offer my baby. Several times a day they would come and tell me she had failed her tests and that she needed supplementing from a bottle. Each time I refused. At my lowest point they actually came in with a bottle and I totally lost it! The midwife had warned me that the charts used by the hospital were for bottle fed babies but these people were making me feel so guilty I just had to get out of there.

It was now recognised that I was going to be in bed for a while (at least three to four weeks) so I was offered a transfer to another hospital, but I refused it as it was even further away from Mr Piglet and my friends than where I was! We enquired about home hospitalisation and whilst it is very rural at my inlaws, everything was quickly set in motion and before I knew it the ambulance was there picking me up.

We dressed Baby Piglet up in her going home outfit and I took a few pictures from my bed. She looked so serious, as if she was promising to be a good little girl for her Mummy that my heart broke. I cried all the way home in the ambulance.

Back at my inlaws it was fantastic. The house was all set so that I could sleep properly on an electric hospital style bed with the hand thing so I could hoist myself up. My Mum & Dad delayed their return home to stay and help us set things up so that Mr Piglet and I could cope. There was so much stuff I hadn’t prepared as I had just assumed I would be able to do it once I gave birth. Never did it occur to me that I would be in such a state.

So this is where I am now. Still in limbo at the inlaws, still not being able to look after my daughter and feeling sorry for myself but so proud of her and proud that I am able to offer her what she needs in terms of love and milk at least. I now have a wicked UTI and can no longer get out of bed. Right now it is one thing after another (I ripped my stitches whilst laughing also) and I’ve had enough of being me but my daughter gives me an incredible strength which allows me to keep going and that has enabled me to come off the stronger pain medication I was on for her benefit.

Thank you Lily-May, you have made this manageable for your Mummy. I love you.

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Dear French Social Security People,

I know that you have an ever increasing “hole” in your budget and that you have been trying to find solutions for years on how to maintain the French healthcare system and yet save money so to ensure its future sustainability. I know that you have been unsuccessful and that currently you continue to spend far more money than you collect.

I’m not one for great ideas, especially when it comes to saving money (I am very good at spending it), but I do have an idea that could be mutually beneficial and help save you lots and lots of Euros straightaway but also for years to come.

Currently 8 months pregnant, you have been paying for me to have twice weekly back massages at a physiotherapy since Christmas. I’m not sure of the exact price of these massages as you pay for them, but I think they are in the region of 19 Euros each. So far, that must be over 400 Euros and by the time I give birth, you would probably have spent over 500 Euros on them.

The thing is, the massages don’t really help all that much. Yes they relieve some of the pain but it is a short lived solution. You see, with a big pregnant belly, I cannot lie down but have to sit on a chair. Sitting on a chair is one of things that cause me back pain the first place so it is a catch 22 situation.

But, I have the perfect solution which solves my back problem that you’re already paying for, but also covers other issues at the same time. I consider it as a kind of buy one get several solutions idea. I visited a hairdressing salon and they had the most wonderful massage chair at the wash basins. The hairdresser installs you at the wash basin and the chair reclines automatically into a lying down position elevating your legs (excellent for reducing cankles) and then proceeds to massage your back whilst the hairdresser washes your hair and gives you a relaxing head massage.

The back massage is far more comfortable than at the physiotherapists and much more effective. The head massage is excellent for alleviating stress and tension in the shoulders – something that lots of pregnant women suffer from due to the extra weight they carry on their tummy. Elevated legs reduce swollen ankles and improve blood circulation reducing the need to invest in expensive support tights (which you pay for and which I ladder constantly therefore needing new ones). Finally, the pampering of having one’s hair done at the hairdressers is excellent for boosting self esteem and no doubt has a knock on effect in the future probably saving thousands of Euros in therapy costs post partum.

A once weekly visit is much more effective on me than my twice weekly physio visits, thus saving you half of what you’re already paying as well as the other savings I have mentioned above.

Multiply the savings by the number of pregnant women in France (ie lots!) and you’re probably well on your way to fixing that deficit!

Therefore, I highly recommend that you seriously consider implementing this for all pregnant ladies suffering from back pain. If you would like any addresses or if you have any questions please let me know and I would be willing to assist (for a consultancy fee of course).

Yours Faithfully,

Currently sans domicile fixe

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Silly pregnant brain had me believing hen had teeth after PIP said they were hard to come by… It’s a wonder I can even function currently, stupidity is becoming my middle name.

Yesterday I poured my coffee in the bin instead of in the sink. I turned the tap on over the worktop instead of the sink. I tried to drive around Lyon at 2330 to drop a letter off for a friend and realized that the car was no longer showing how many kilometers I could do. Not a good sign as it probably means zero. Who knows how long I’d been driving around on the reserve? Without any petrol I wasn’t even sure that I’d make it home and drove very, very slowly. So slowly I would have been stopped by the police for sure. Thankfully I wasn’t, needless to mention I hadn’t thought to take any ID or driving license with me (or money for petrol)…

Silly pregnant brain also led me to fall UP the stairs yesterday. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read correctly. I fell UP the stairs. Thankfully it was only a little tumble and I had a natural reflex to put my hand in front of my bump to protect myself. Other than a few bruises no damage was done. But I’m now going to wrap myself up in cotton wool.

Last night, silly pregnant brain decided to bake a banana cake. It’s been months since I tried to bake anything. But I’d forgotten my kitchen scales no longer worked so blindly guessed all the measurements – have you ever tried to figure out what 175 grams of flour look like? It was totally worth it though as the cake was delicious and served with magic candles it was the first birthday cake I ever baked for Mr Piglet and he thoroughly enjoyed it!

The recipe for the cake I baked can be found here.

So far today silly pregnant brain hasn’t done anything stupid but is very tired so took a nap at lunch instead of eating lunch. Now I’m trying to struggle my way through the afternoon and banish the thoughts of mince pies and Christmas pudding.

French Health Cover Update:
Just a quick update from my last rant – it’s beginning to look as if I won’t have to go to the CPAM social security offices after all! I have been saved from the silliness of the French administrative system, or so it would appear. This morning they deposited a tidy sum onto my bank account! I’m currently working out what it corresponds to payment wise but it is there, on my account! Yipee!

Christmas Tree – be aware of special card holder offers:
Sunday, Mr Piglet and I purchased our Christmas tree. We were going to get a real one but I was flabbergasted at the price and we kind of needed a big one for our living room otherwise it would just be swallowed up. Plus we had the pot from the dead palm tree that the cats peed on and killed, so an ideal location to put a tree.

We found one in Jardiland at 129 Euros down from 159 Euros for shop card carriers (which we are), it measures 2.10 metres. Delighted with the bargain I thought we were getting and exhausted from having to battle with the crowds, I handed over my card and paid.
Only later when I was home did I see the figures on the pin machine flash in front of my eyes. The buggers had overcharged me!! I called and had to take a trip back to the store to get reimbursed the 30 Euros they had overcharged me.

There are two lessons to be learned here:

1. Always check at the till that you’re paying the right price, especially at Christmas time as battling the crowds is no fun.
2. Artificial Christmas trees always seem smaller in the store. Our one is huge! It didn’t seem huge in the shop, but when we got it home and put it up with our decorations we realized that it was a bit too big! We didn’t have enough decorations to decorate it, so we’ve gone for the less is more look…

Our tree and proud Princess sitting next to it!

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Here's hoping the Secu will give me some Euros for my piggy bank

Having read several posts over at Traveling Amber regarding her battles with various French administration departments during the late stages of her pregnancy, I decided to follow her advice and start tackling some of my administration problems now, rather than leave them until later on.

Ambers’ tales have left me weak kneed about what’s to come and have made me realize I seriously have to get my act together. So I have listed everything that’s not right with my relationship with the French Social Security people and have tried to start attacking my list as best as I can:

With the impending move, its best I get everything sorted now; otherwise a change of address and department will make things even more complicated than they already are.

I did start trying to sort things out this summer and things came to a head in September when my Doctor disappeared (read post here). After writing this post, I waited a while in case my Doctor showed a sign of life and come mid-October I still hadn’t had any news either from my old Doctor (who really has disappeared off the face of the earth) or from the lovely people at the CPAM (social security).

In order to achieve any result in France it’s best to think like a French person and act as they would. In this case sending a registered letter should do the trick. So I wrote to them, in my best French, explaining my situation and including as much documentation as I could.

They also still owed me money for the month I had off work in February after my fondue fork stabbing incident and a whole months salary is not a little amount. I reminded them in my letter that I was still waiting for this payment to come through and again I included documentation supporting my case.

Feeling pleased with myself for having attacked the problem head-on and in due form, I posted the registered letter and sat back and waited for a response, certain that everything would be resolved in a timely manner.

That is, until today. My kind Outlook calendar burst into action and reminded me to check my bank account for payments. I dutifully did so, rather hoping to have received a windfall (I’m owed a couple of thousand Euros), but niltch, nada, nothing.

Feeling really peeved I called the CPAM (social security people) and tried to find out why over a month and half after doing everything they told me to do nothing had happened. My situation is really complicated and I could hear the woman on the other end of the phone switching off as I tried to explain.

My braces were shredding at my tongue and my cheeks and I was in agony as I applied as I applied my very best French accent (not easy these days since I’ve had lingual braces fitted) as I outlined everything that was still wrong with my health cover and payments.

Rather amazingly, the lady managed to summarize what I had spent the last five minutes trying to say in a couple of phrases (does this mean this type of problem is common?) and told me that she couldn’t help! WHAT? I had gone to all that trouble for nothing, steam was coming out of my ears!

She took my telephone number and said that she would pass a message on to the appropriate service. When I enquired as to when I can expect a call she informed me 21 days!! How pathetic is that? I told her that I’d already written in well over 21 days ago and that I hadn’t heard anything. All she could say was that she was sorry and that she couldn’t do anything more.

I know it’s not her fault so I really did manage to reign in my anger and frustration but I was absolutely livid. This is a lot of money we’re talking about and at this time of year after all the taxes etc have wiped out my account and with all the baby stuff we need to purchase, I really could do with getting what I have contributed into the system for as per my rights.

Afterall, if I stopped contributing they would soon stop paying but they’re not even paying when I am contributing! What to do?

I’ve decided I’m going to give them another 10 days and then I’ll be sending another registered letter with copies of previous correspondence, details of calls and I will also be addressing a copy to a mediator or something (gosh, I hope one exists, any ideas?).

Until then I’ll be keeping a close eye on my Carte Vitale (the essential French healthcare card which contains all my social security details and is required at every medical occasion) so not to lose it and further complicate matters. Unfortunately my brilliant pregnant brain is playing havoc and I keep loosing it. The Carte Vitale is the size of a credit card and only this morning did I risk loosing it again by absent mindedly putting it in yet another car parking payment machine.

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Photo from PhotoExpress

Two words I would desperately love to be able to say to my Doctor right now. I have been trying very hard to say them but my Doctor appears to have disappeared.

Originally I thought he was on holiday and made do without him, but I’ve been trying to reach him since the beginning of September now without any luck. My need to contact him opposed to just any Doctor is urgent and is because the pesky French social security has managed to loose my attestation of declared doctor since I switched from one service to another.

This missing attestation means as far as they are concerned I do not have a declared Doctor and all my medical reimbursements for normal appointments, specialists, x-rays, IRM scans etc are only reimbursed at 30% of what I paid and my additional health insurance policy won’t accept to pay the difference.

This mess up is meaning that I am hundreds of Euros out of pocket and the only possible solution to remedy the situation is to get my Doctor to resign a form.

Desperate to track him down, I went on a detective mission yesterday and visited his office which like many French GP’s is in a residential apartment block. His button on the interphone was no longer working and his shutters were all closed. Not a good sign. Next I checked out his letter box. My crouching down on the floor on all fours and putting my head at a really odd angle I could make out that there was quite a lot of post in the box. Now, I don’t know how much post a Doctor normally receives but that looked like a lot. Not a good sign.

I must have raised suspicions as a resident of the apartment block came out to see what I was doing, I don’t suppose that it’s everyday that they have fake blondes loitering in the entrance hall on all fours trying to peer into their letter boxes!

Alas, the resident quickly confirmed that the Doctor had not been seen for almost two months and nobody knew where he had gone or if anything had happened to him.

This did not leave me with much hope and I popped the letter I had pre-prepared into his letter box with my request and hoped that he would pick it up soon. I left the building dejected, wondering what had happened to my Doctor and whether he was okay and also worried about the financial consequences for me vis-à-vis the Social Security due to his disappearance.

On returning home, I called the Social Security to explain my plight and see what could be done. Afterall, it isn’t just a few Euros I was talking about so it was definitely worth the call however complicated it may be, what with the French aspect (okay so I am fluent, but dealing with these people is hard work even for Frenchies) and my lisping with my braces.

By way of a miracle I spoke to a lovely lady who did not sound at all surprised that my Doctor could disappear (is this a frequent occurrence in France then?) and she told me not to worry. Apparently they can contact my old Caisse and get confirmation from them that I had already declared my Doctor. Question: why did they not do this originally when I told them I had already declared it?

Now,  I have to go and find a new GP to register with. This may seem an easy task to most but if you’re looking for someone who actually listens to what you have to say before they start writing the prescription then you’ll realize that this is not the case. At least not around here anyway.

My Doctor was a rare pearl and I sincerely hope he is well whatever may have happened to him.

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