Sunday, October 11, 2009


It was 4:19 in the morning and my bronchial cough I have had for the better part of ten months was raging. I knew I wasn’t contagious, because I have never given it anyone, but it certainly made it difficult for me to breathe. Not to mention the fact, that it has exacerbated my exercised induced
asthma into full blown asthma. Needless to say, my breathing situation has not been easy to deal with over these last several months.

I have been to two doctors here in France. They both gave me antiobiotics and different asthma medication, but now I was out of my asthma spray and I was hurting.

My internet was down and I wasn’t sure where the hospital was, but I decided to follow my instincts and began to make my trek down the quiet French streets. Half way there I was not only painfully coughing, I began to have a full-blown asthma attack. I was barely able to catch my breath. Leaning over trying to gasp for air, I slowly continued on my journey.

Thankfully, my instincts were right and within  fifteen minutes I was at a local military hospital. After reading the sign posted on the gate, I knew they allowed emergency patients to enter, as well. I was certainly an emergency patient, so I pressed the bell three times. Nothing happened. I next dialed the number listed on the sign. No one answered. I was beginning to panic. As a last resort, I tried to ring the bell one more time and this time the gate opened.

I walked in and nearly breathlessly explained my predicament to the guard. He told me where to go and I repeated my story to the attending nurse. She contacted the doctor and they immediately put me on a ventilator and strapped an IV into my wrist. The ventilator eased my breathing and the IV calmed the coughing. It was a good feeling. I cried from shear joy that I was able to breathe properly again.

They took blood tests and x-rays. Thankfully, I am not contagious (as I already knew) as there was no infection. However, my lungs had some inflammation. The doctor told me this was due to stress. Yes, I knew this too, but it was nice to have the confirmation.

I stayed at the hospital until nearly noon. While I was there, two doctors and many nurses and attendants assisted me. The staff continuously checked in on me to ask if I needed anything. In fact, their bedside manner was impeccable. They turned off the lights to allow me to get some shut eye. They fed me a nutritious breakfast when I awoke.  They even offered me a shower. Even the cleaning woman said a friendly, "Bonjour," to me. It seemed to me that those working in the medical field in the U.S. should take note on the French people’s more appropriate behavior towards their patients.  I was not on a conveyor belt only getting a few minutes of the doctor's attention, I was being taken care ofeven though I was a foreigner.

The most amazing part of the story, however, was not the fact that I received such wonderful treatment from a gracious staff; it was the fact that I did not carry health insurance and they treated me anyway. They didn't even charge me on that day. A few weeks later I received a bill and with all they had done and with the amount of time I was there, I was only charged a mere 80 euros. I needed help and they came to my rescue. The Hippocratic Oath actually means something to the French.

This stirred up memories of the American health care system for me.  For example, when I was eight years old my mom was baking the night before Thanksgiving and dropped a heavy can of flour on her foot. We rushed to the Emergency Room at the hospital so that she could have some care for her now broken toe. My brother and I were playing in the waiting room, when I noticed off one of the hallways several people surrounding a patient on a gurney. What I witnessed was scorched into my mind for all eternity. One of the staff members made the unfortunate decision to insist that they could not operate on this man until they had a signature from his wife. The wife was nowhere to be seen and a few minutes later the man died. I have never forgotten this image.

I also broke my ankle a few years ago. My orthopedic surgeon informed me that I need orthotics for my shoes after the healing process was done. I paid $420 dollars a month on health insurance and they would not cover me for I did not have diabetes. I am not quite sure what diabetes has to do with broken feet, but clearly our system needs an overhaul.

I wonder why it is that our healthcare system has been allowed to be dictated by insurance carriers. Our medical caretakers are so afraid of making a mistake and then being sued that they turn people away. Healers need to remember why they are in the business of healing in the first place. Is it really about money, or are they here to be of service and help others? The French certainly have the right perspective. I hope that someday we Americans will too.

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!