Received medical care in France

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During a visit to our favorite haunts in France in September ’04, I awoke at 4 a.m in our suburban Paris hotel room with an emergency at hand. Pat, my wife of over 40 years, was suffering a crippling pain in her abdomen that called for immediate action.

The pre-dawn lobby of the Saphir Hotel (aire de Bercheres, on N104, Pontault-Combault) was deserted except for the night man. I told him my wife needed medical attention quickly and asked if a doctor was on call. He made two short calls and said, “They will be here in a few minutes.”

“Who?”

“The sapeurs-pompiers; they are the fire brigade. Also a doctor is coming.”

I couldn’t believe two short phone calls had accomplished all that. As we waited, I found that his name was Martin, a transplant from southern France who spoke five languages.

Within five minutes, a red truck lurched to a stop outside and four firefighters strode into the lobby dressed in black jumpsuits with reflective striping and black boots. Another wore a backpack the size of a small refrigerator, and a fourth was a petite woman who matched the others stride for stride.

She spoke the best English, so on the way to the room I explained our emergency.

Pat opened her eyes to a room full of resolute strangers. The backpack was an oxygen generator, which within seconds was feeding a breathing tube. The woman sat next to Pat, asking cardiovascular questions. They suspected heart, but we knew otherwise. Thanks to three weeks of French cuisine,

Pat’s Crohn’s Disease had obviously soared to acuteness.

Five minutes later a doctor and nurse arrived, sent from the emergency room of the Lagny sur Marne hospital 20 miles away. Dr. De Renaldo, who spoke fluent English, went quickly to work, examining and asking questions. Just as quickly she said Pat should be taken to the hospital where proper equipment was available. Pat objected; I insisted, and the firefighters carefully shifted Pat to a gurney, then transported her down the elevator and into the fire department ambulance.

Martin fell in stride beside the firefighters and insisted to them that I ride in the ambulance so I could learn the route, then take a taxi back to the hotel for my rented car. (The barely subsonic ride to the emergency room convinced me I could not have followed in my car.) Martin’s last words to me were, “If anyone has questions, tell them to ask for me.”

At the emergency room, everything clicked. Doctor Renaldo was there and took charge. She started an I.V. drip, began bloodwork, administered antispasm medicine and ordered x-rays. She had a surgeon look in, just in case. An x-ray technician, who raised our spirits with her smiling chatter, took a series that our U.S. doctor later said were perfect.

While we were in the E.R., red fire ambulances manned by similarly jumpsuited crews delivered the morning’s assortment of emergency cases. Luckily, on this day they were mostly scrapes and bruises. The firefighters — macho, chatting up the nurses and exuding camaraderie — worked with a smooth efficiency that bespoke competence.

Pat was in the emergency room seven hours. By noon, Dr. Renaldo had diagnosed acute gastritis. She explained the three prescriptions she ordered, then gave us a longhand letter in English for our U.S. doctor and another shorter one, for the airline, explaining the needed flight change. (The latter saved a $340 added fare charge.)

She apologized that the prescription medicine would be expensive. Ha! It was $45. The bill for everything else — ambulance, E.R. meds, blood analysis, x-rays, doctors’ fees and seven hours in emergency — came to $246.

We flew home the next day. Our U.S. doctor said the diagnosis and treatment were superb.

Earlier, after Pat had been put in the good care of the E.R. staff and the ambulance crew was getting ready to depart, I shook hands with the three males. I could not understand their exuberant stream of French, but the meaning was unmistakable: “It was nothing, monsieur. All in a day’s work. So happy to be of service.”

PAUL RICHARDS
Peoria Heights, IL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

During a visit to our favorite haunts in France in September ’04, I awoke at 4 a.m in our suburban Paris hotel room with an emergency at hand. Pat, my wife of over 40 years, was suffering a crippling pain in her abdomen that called for immediate action.

The pre-dawn lobby of the Saphir Hotel (aire de Bercheres, on N104, Pontault-Combault) was deserted except for the night man. I told him my wife needed medical attention quickly and asked if a doctor was on call. He made two short calls and said, “They will be here in a few minutes.”

“Who?”

“The sapeurs-pompiers; they are the fire brigade. Also a doctor is coming.”

I couldn’t believe two short phone calls had accomplished all that. As we waited, I found that his name was Martin, a transplant from southern France who spoke five languages.

Within five minutes, a red truck lurched to a stop outside and four firefighters strode into the lobby dressed in black jumpsuits with reflective striping and black boots. Another wore a backpack the size of a small refrigerator, and a fourth was a petite woman who matched the others stride for stride.

She spoke the best English, so on the way to the room I explained our emergency.

Pat opened her eyes to a room full of resolute strangers. The backpack was an oxygen generator, which within seconds was feeding a breathing tube. The woman sat next to Pat, asking cardiovascular questions. They suspected heart, but we knew otherwise. Thanks to three weeks of French cuisine,

Pat’s Crohn’s Disease had obviously soared to acuteness.

Five minutes later a doctor and nurse arrived, sent from the emergency room of the Lagny sur Marne hospital 20 miles away. Dr. De Renaldo, who spoke fluent English, went quickly to work, examining and asking questions. Just as quickly she said Pat should be taken to the hospital where proper equipment was available. Pat objected; I insisted, and the firefighters carefully shifted Pat to a gurney, then transported her down the elevator and into the fire department ambulance.

Martin fell in stride beside the firefighters and insisted to them that I ride in the ambulance so I could learn the route, then take a taxi back to the hotel for my rented car. (The barely subsonic ride to the emergency room convinced me I could not have followed in my car.) Martin’s last words to me were, “If anyone has questions, tell them to ask for me.”

At the emergency room, everything clicked. Doctor Renaldo was there and took charge. She started an I.V. drip, began bloodwork, administered antispasm medicine and ordered x-rays. She had a surgeon look in, just in case. An x-ray technician, who raised our spirits with her smiling chatter, took a series that our U.S. doctor later said were perfect.

While we were in the E.R., red fire ambulances manned by similarly jumpsuited crews delivered the morning’s assortment of emergency cases. Luckily, on this day they were mostly scrapes and bruises. The firefighters — macho, chatting up the nurses and exuding camaraderie — worked with a smooth efficiency that bespoke competence.

Pat was in the emergency room seven hours. By noon, Dr. Renaldo had diagnosed acute gastritis. She explained the three prescriptions she ordered, then gave us a longhand letter in English for our U.S. doctor and another shorter one, for the airline, explaining the needed flight change. (The latter saved a $340 added fare charge.)

She apologized that the prescription medicine would be expensive. Ha! It was $45. The bill for everything else — ambulance, E.R. meds, blood analysis, x-rays, doctors’ fees and seven hours in emergency — came to $246.

We flew home the next day. Our U.S. doctor said the diagnosis and treatment were superb.

Earlier, after Pat had been put in the good care of the E.R. staff and the ambulance crew was getting ready to depart, I shook hands with the three males. I could not understand their exuberant stream of French, but the meaning was unmistakable: “It was nothing, monsieur. All in a day’s work. So happy to be of service.”

PAUL RICHARDS
Peoria Heights, IL