On Monday morning when I called to check on Mom she told me she wasn’t feeling well. I tried to press her on what was wrong, but she was unable to say anything other than that she felt “funny.” She also had trouble understanding what I was saying on the phone. I immediately went next door and found that it was not good news.
Basically, she was disoriented, confused, unable to articulate words properly and just generally out of it. I called our doctor only to discover that he was on vacation! There was a replacement doctor seeing his patients though, and she gave me the first appointment in the afternoon.
I knew something was wrong with Mom, because she said she didn’t want to go anywhere and when I insisted that she HAD to go to the doctor, she allowed me to just put a housedress on her and take her out that way. Mom is VERY concerned about making sure she has at least lipstick on before going out the front door and for her to not worry about that was not a good sign. In fact, my grandmother nearly called the police to come and take her to the hospital when she went into labor with me, because even though her water had broken, she wouldn’t go out the door without putting on her make up first!
Things got weirder as we went outside. I had put the car right in front of the door and she couldn’t find it. She also couldn’t figure out how to get inside it. When we got to the doctor’s office she didn’t recognize the building or the office.
As soon as the doctor saw Mom she wrote out a letter and told us to get to the ER immediately. We went to the Solano Clinic in Lavelanet (where the doc’s office is) only to discover that the hospital there was full and they didn’t have room in the ER or a bed to give her should she need it. They called the big hospital in Foix and told them we were on our way. That was about a 45 minute detour!
Still, we got to the hospital, JM took Mom in and then we waited. We waited for 3 1/2 hours! They obviously didn’t think we were as big an emergency as other people, and seeing some of the other people who came in, I think they were probably right. But that doesn’t really help when you’re worried about YOUR loved one!
Finally it was our turn and they let me go into the examining room with Mom, something they normally wouldn’t do. But they saw that she couldn’t speak French and was not in great shape. We actually did get an intern who spoke English, which was a surprise. They sent her for a brain scan and did a stroke evaluation and it definitely looked like she had had a small stroke, which had been what I was worried about.
She didn’t have any major paralysis but the right side of her face was a little droopy. Mostly she had “word salad” and comprehension problems. Clearly they were going to keep her overnight.
Around 9 pm, JM and I left because the dogs had been alone and unable to go out all day and we really needed to deal with that (downside of no garden and doggie door). A nurse called at 11 pm to tell us what room she was in and to ask me to help let Mom know she needed to call a nurse if she had to get out of bed.
We got to the hospital the next morning in time to see the doctor who was treating her there. He told us that he didn’t think she’d had a stroke at all, but that it was EPILEPSY! This seems to have been caused by an earlier stroke that she had about 15 years ago and from what I’ve read, it’s a relatively common thing in stroke patients.
To be honest, that was pretty reassuring, because compared to a stroke, epilepsy is something I think we can all live with. By that point, Mom was actually pretty much back to normal. She had no memory of what had happened to her and I don’t think she really understood why she was in the hospital. But the difference with the previous day was amazing. We were ready to take her home, but the doctor looked at us like we were crazy, “She only got here last night,” he said.
We agreed that she should stay for a few more tests, but clearly, the hospital wasn’t all that worried about getting her out of there. They weren’t really doing anything for her other than the tests, and although I can see the point of doing them while she was there, I still think getting her the heck out of there would have been better for her.
That’s where I really did not like this doctor. He said “No one likes to be in the hospital,”which is true, but he was unable to put himself in the shoes of an elderly woman who didn’t speak French and was in a place where almost no one spoke English.
I don’t believe, however, that it has anything to do with his being French. I think it has to do with the difference between “specialists” and family doctors. Our doctor has a philosophy that his patients are people with needs, this doctor was more, “I’m treating the epilepsy in room 309;” that tends to be dehumanizing.
Finally, the tests were done and it’s true, they were done faster than if we’d had to take several appointments to get them. We don’t have the results yet though, so whether it was worth it or not, I can’t answer.
I can say that the experience was very stressful for all of us. Mom still has trouble grasping exactly WHY she was there. JM and I feel like we’ve been through the wringer. The dogs are the only ones who seem to have put it all behind them without too much difficulty.
There were several odd things about the hospital stay itself. They didn’t have Mom’s blood pressure medication in their pharmacy. They didn’t tell us that until she’d been there for two days and I wound up bringing it with me on the day she was getting released. Apparently, because it’s a public hospital, the paperwork is complicated to order medications so it’s easier to bring your own if they don’t have it.
Although they told us they would bring towels, soap, etc., it seemed complicated to get them to do it, so we wound up going to the Carrefour and buying what she needed ourselves. I guess most people tend to bring their own supplies, but having never been in a hospital in France before, we didn’t know that.
Mom found the food good and copious. They served huge portions that it was impossible for her to finish. JM and I wound up eating one lunch in the cafeteria and were impressed by the quality and low cost. No ambiance at all, but the food was good.
Everyone (except the doctor) was unfailingly nice and helpful. That certainly helped to make things more pleasant. But I still don’t ever want to go through that again!
Ciao for now.