19 June 2005

Episode No. 3: L’hopital confortable

A thin blonde nurse in her fifties came to fetch me. She had short and stringy blond hair and smiled cautiously. They don’t usually speak English at the American Hospital, which is a bit off-putting at first. However, they are willing to do so with patients like me, when there is no alternative. The departement d’urgence was empty, clean and quiet. I felt relieved when I was able to lay down in the huge emergency room. It had to be the largest room in France. It looked like the sort of place in which people could be saved from anything, and had all the technology and apparatus that one would expect. I was glad I had made it there – down the stairs, into the taxi, through the empty streets of Paris, past the gate, past the front desk.

The nurse drew blood and asked me questions. She told me I didn’t have a fever. It was good news because I know that many unsavory illnesses come with fever. Sans fever, I was sure that I would live. Blood appeared in my urine sample, the American doctor told me, and this probably meant that I had a kidney stone. She said that if I had an X-ray and a sonogram, they would know for sure. She seemed confident with her diagnosis and therefore so did I. Like many American women, she was neither thin nor fat. She was my age -- a fact that caused me to examine my achievements in life, or lack thereof. She had short, wavy brunette hair and looked like someone who could be trusted. She was not afraid to smile or speak casually with me. When her black loafers clicked and clacked as they carried her off, I decided that she was my new best-friend.

I knew they were painful and have heard many horror stories, but I was happy that I had a routine condition that could be easily diagnosed. A short while earlier, I was certain I had some sort of weird Legionnaires Disease or something exotic transmitted from the third world to unassuming westerners forced to ride on public transportation because they didn’t get good enough grades in school and therefore didn’t have worthy careers that provided them with enough money to take taxis everywhere they went. If I had only done better in school I would not have contracted this strange malady and would not be in excruciating pain on foreign soil. Once I knew that nothing was going to rupture, I relaxed a bit.

The nurse injected an anti-inflammatory into my back and I had to put on a hospital shirt, but was able to retain my shorts. I was impressed as the hospital’s “porters” wheeled me to departments that were actually expecting me. I was ushered into rooms where people were ready to deal with me. I hardly waited at all, possibly due to the fact that it was 5 a.m. When they were finished with me, another porter came to get me and return me to an observation room in the emergency ward. There was a system in place, and it seemed to be working. This was refreshing. I was happy to be rid of the pain, if even temporarily.

In the observation room I was able to sleep for a while. The radiology doctor would not arrive until later in the morning. I laid down on the most comfortable bed, with starched white sheets. I pulled a mustard colored blanket over me and realized that I was directly beneath an air conditioning vent. It wasn’t the weak sort of Parisian air-conditioning that they have at the cinema. It was real air that I could feel on my face. I thought about how strange it was that the hospital has been the most comfortable place I have visited in Paris.

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