About a month and a half ago I unfortunately had an allergic reaction to a spider bite. The reaction showed itself in an abrupt series of spots on my wrist, leg and stomach, the cause of which I didn’t know for a few days, which only added to my worry. When I woke up with them on Monday morning, I had absolutely no idea what to do. With the time difference it would be another six hours before my parents were awake to council me. I started calling dermatologists and general practitioners, but everyone was booked for weeks. I was freaked out and with plans for reading week coming up in four days, I knew I had to do something. So, despite my experience with how painful French administration could be and a complete lack of optimism, I went to the emergency room.
When I got there, I gave the nurse my information, explained why I was there and was told that French emergency rooms are not on a first come first serve basis but instead based on seriousness of issue. Amongst a room of about six people, one of whom was quite literally green with nausea, you can imagine the panic that ran through me when I was called almost right away. Was my issue really this serious? What if they have to amputate? Why do time zones even exist? Where the heck is my mom? Turned out they did this with everyone right away to take blood pressure and do a more thorough analysis of the situation.
I was told waiting time would be anywhere from three to four hours, but I was seen after about an hour and a half. The nurses were kind, reassuring and very conscious of how nervous I was. They did a thorough physical examination and asked me loads of questions about my symptoms and overall health. One of my nurses was a man from Montreal who was in France doing his internship for med school. When I asked why he came all the way to France to do his internship he explained he had taken a course that compared health care systems all over the world and learned that the French system is on-par, if not slightly better than the Canadian system. The nurses presented my case to the doctor who was equally as nice and reaffirming. One problem – they had absolutely no idea where this rash was coming from. Two doctors and two nurses could not pin point what was going on which, once again, did not help my worry.
Despite all the dermatologist offices being fully booked for the next 10 days, they all sympathized that going through something like this in a foreign country (and second language) was not easy, so the main doctor got me an appointment the next afternoon. Once again, to my surprise, the experience at the dermatologist was hassle free and the dermatologist was a lovely woman. After a few tests, she concluded the reaction was from a spider bite and prescribed me with an anti-histamine tablet and cortisone, all which barely cost 10 Euros at the pharmacy. She also scheduled a follow up appointment for two weeks later to ensure I was getting along okay and that everything had cleared up – I was, and it did. In fact, I was fine within three days after seeing her.
While the process of receiving care was incredible, I am still in the midst of retrieving my social insurance information. Upon registration at my university, I was forced to purchase social security called LMDE, which was not cheap, hence my keenness to ensure the social security comes through when it comes time to pay my bills. The social assistant could not find me anywhere in the system, which meant I had to send an entire portfolio of personal identification documents somewhere in northern France just to get the file number to pay the adjusted amount. The process should be relatively straight forward after I receive the information, if it gets to me in time before I have to head home (currently on day 17 of waiting to hear from someone). French bureaucracy is something I will never tire of complaining about, apparently.
All in all, throughout this entire process, I was greeted with incredibly hospitable and kind people who were very accommodating and thorough. The health care I received was timely and efficient, all while comforting. It was a really nerve-wracking process dealing with a new health care system all on my own, but it was made a lot easier by the quality of service and employees that I was fortunate enough to be helped by.
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