Jack in France

By From page A5 | September 23, 2013


In the Sept. 2 Mountain Democrat, John Garon wrote a letter extolling the French medical care system. He used for examples the care extended to a friend he and his wife were traveling with, and an incident that happened in Paris. He identified the friend as “Jack,” as in Jack and Jill. I am that Jack, and the events as related by Mr. Garon are true, but I would like to clarify some other parts of the incident.

The fall I took on the cobblestone street was severe, and the damage to my left thumb was horrendous. The thumb was disjointed and the bone running between the joint and the end of my thumb was shattered into three pieces, coming up through the nail. We walked to a nearby emergency hospital, they arranged for me to be transferred to a Paris hospital where a hand specialist was scheduled to do some surgeries on other people and I was operated on that evening.

Yes, the cost of everything was about $2,200, a whole lot cheaper than it would have been in the U.S. I went to nurse practitioners’ offices to get the wound re-bandaged ever other day. Mr. Garon asks, “Was Jack’s medical care excellent? You bet. Was it prompt? Absolutely.” Well, that’s not quite all the story. Yes, the French medical system was polite and cheap and prompt. But there’s more to consider.

After two days we went to a hospital to get my wound re-bandaged. They said they were too full of other patients to take me, and sent us to another office. That office too said they were too busy to re-bandage my hand, a 10-minute procedure. Mr. Garon and I went to five different medical offices where we were rebuffed. Finally, a nurse at one of the offices gave us a phone number of another nurse practitioner who could help me, and she was efficient and polite — and cheap, $14 a visit.

After two weeks I was scheduled to go to the nurse practitioner’s office for what I feared was going to be a very painful procedure, removing the wire the original doctor had placed through all the broken bone sections to make them heal straight. Mr. Garon came with me to translate if needed, and to “hold my hand.” I do not speak French, but I had the official document from the first hand doctor saying that after two weeks the wire/stitches should be removed.

But the nurse practitioner said, “What wire?” I don’t know what the trouble was, but I thought I must be wrong thinking the doctor had said the wire must be removed, after all, the nurse practitioner is French and a medical professional.

Five weeks later, when I got back to the U.S., I immediately went to a hand specialist and he removed the wire. But he said I should have had the wire removed after two weeks, because the bone had healed in a straight line and I would never able to bend the thumb again. It is my left thumb and I’m left-handed, so I will be seriously affected having a non-bendable thumb for the rest of my life. I don’t know how intelligible my writing will be, what I will be able to hold in my left hand, or in what other ways I will be handicapped. But, it was cheap care.


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