The Comforts Of Home
Finally, yesterday, we creaked and draggled our way home from the hospital. You’d think we’d have hopped and skipped, but a person who hasn’t even walked more than a few hundred feet in two weeks is pretty creaky, even when he isn’t glued together with gauze and steri-strips.
Shel’s first thought was to get into his own bed with his own pillow and someone warm. Zazou was happy to oblige, being one of those kittens whose idea of heaven is to snuggle up to you under the covers and purr up a storm. His second thought was to put in his dinner order, something to banish the memory of those frightening hospital meals. Although let the record show that the dinner-serving ladies always came around and offered both of us coffee as they took away Shel’s tray, a redeemingly civilized touch.
So, after 10 days of fasting, followed by a week of hospital food, do you think he was dreaming of foie gras? Or was it coq au vin? Or even tarte aux pommes? Mais non. What he wanted most was a hot dog with relish and yellow mustard, potato chips, and a Coke.
It’s hard to break out of the cocoon, to leave the security of knowing that it’s someone’s job to look after you night and day and make sure that you’re alive and well. Shel’s nurses were all young, practically no one looked to be a minute over 30. Probably that’s because they work long and hard, doing 12 hour shifts as a matter of course, with a nurse to patient ratio that seems low by our norms. And although in our experience, French nurses don’t plump pillows and offer cool compresses, they do keep an eye on you and are competent, warm, and efficient caregivers. Not to mention that they were always giving him, and me, free French lessons.
Although I’m sure that Shel regrets no longer being tended to by a bevy of cute young nurses, we do have one coming to the house for the next week or so. She gives shots, changes bandages, and generally keeps an eye on things in a reassuring way. She charges 5 Euros to come to the house for a shot, which is about $6.80 at today’s exchange rate. Of course, we had to go to the pharmacy to get all the drugs and bandaging supplies that she’ll be using, which was another 162 Euros, or $220. That means that a week of home nursing care will set us back about $300.
We haven’t seen the hospital bill yet. They did ask us for a deposit check when we arrived, but went to some pains to explain that they wouldn’t cash it, it was only a caution, just in case we were to skip out on our bill. Full of trepidation, I begged for an estimate as we were on our way out the door. The nice lady who was handling our bon de sortir form, which can be charmingly translated as “good to go,” gave me what she insisted was a very rough estimate: three surgeries, blood work, scans and X-rays, drugs, nursing care and doctor visits, and 17 days in the hospital, 13 of them in a private room. Are you reaching for the piggy bank yet? She thought it might all come to 4000 Euros. That’s about $5,450. And she told me not to hesitate to request installment payments, if it was too hard to pay it all at once.
Of course, maybe it will cost more. Maybe it will cost 5000 Euros. And there’s the stuff we got at the pharmacy, and the home nurse, and a couple of diagnostic scans we had to have done before the hospital swallowed us up. There was also an ambulance trip, although no one seems sure whether we’ll get a bill for that or not. I’m thinking that it’s not likely to come to $8,000. Total. Think about it.
Oh, wait. I forgot the cost of the hot dog dinner. That’s part of the cure too, non?
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