Along for the ride:

Monday, July 16, 2018

When Cows Wore Shoes and Always Buy Travel Insurance!

The reason we ended up with a, largely unused, house in the countryside of France is that The Artistic One spent a couple of his youthful summers here, living on a farm, herding cows and doing other farm work in return for his keep. The old fashioned way of sending your kids to summer camp. Those were the happiest times of his life to the extent that, when winter came he refused to return to school in the city and spent the full four seasons there. Lozere is still the least populated region in France and there are no great fortunes in the land, as there are in wine or olive growing areas.
Cows were used to pull carts as only the wealthier farmers had oxen and almost none had horses. The photo above is of the community cow shooing shed.

Our house was a decrepit barn when we bought it. The roof was caving in and the lower level was inhabited by a dozen cows. We saved the original beams, installed running water and electricity and turned the original hay loft into a large living area and art studio.

Downstairs became the kitchen

 Due to a mixture of reasons of health, money and time, we hadn't visited our house in five years.The local lady previously tasked with keeping the place dusted occasionally had lapsed and we were warned to expect spider webs, dead flies and rat droppings. Luckily, another local woman took on the task. She was familiar with the place as her cows used to live there. When we first visited our barn, seventeen years ago, her then five year old son tried to chase us off.
We had a couple of relaxing days to appreciate the quiet surroundings before we were sucked into a new travel experience. 
Below is the view from TAO's hospital room window. Mende Cathedral in the town below.
 An understaffed and underfunded country hospital can be a scary place.
TAO went in with symptoms similar to kidney stones. It turned out to be retention of urine which is just as painful. He was first patient in the ER at 6am on a Sunday morning and was seen right away.
unfortunately, the catheter insertion was 'Traumatic" and the subsequent bleeding went on for three weeks. I was lucky to be able to access his medical records online from my phone to detail dosages of anticoagulants and date he had a pulmonary embolism etc. not to mention allergies to antibiotics.
My poor husband lost 30 lbs in three weeks. He was too weak to stand, his oxygen count was low and we were in a hospital where the Doctors went home on weekends. When the doctor ordered an ultrasound it took two days to happen and another twenty-four hours to be read.
The results from the culture taken on the first day were nowhere to be found. I walked up a flight of stairs to the floor where we'd been initially admitted, for lack of space elsewhere, and was able to learn that ER test results don't go into the computer. The piece of paper we needed was under another stack in the office.
When TAO had a red and itchy back from a reaction to antibiotics, I showed the nurses in the early morning. Antihistamines were provided at 8pm that evening, almost twelve hours later, as doctors were too busy to write prescriptions before that.
When we travel, I buy travel insurance. Our return tickets from San Francisco to France were only $400 each so $150 insurance for the two of us might have seemed disproportionate. It was the best investment ever.
We ended up having a Rescue Nurse sent out from Colorado, by the insurance company, to accompany us home. He landed in Marseilles and had a four hour drive to reach us in the middle of nowhere. He came to the hospital late afternoon to meet TAO and make arrangements for discharge at 4am the next morning. The limo drive up and down windy hill roads as the windshield wipers swept away the rain got us to the airport with time to spare. With a stop in London and a rushed connection, we were able to sleep some on the plane as we were booked in business class seats that reclined flat. Our nurse kept checking on TAO and had him on oxygen the whole trip home. another limo awaited us at San Jose airport and, at the end of thirty two hours of travel we went straight to Kaiser Hospital ER.
We love our HMO. Kaiser have saved TAO several times over the years. After a week in hospital TAO was transitioned to a Rehabilitation facility to get his strength back and work with Physical Therapists etc.
Unfortunately, the food there did not tempt the appetite of a sick Frenchman and he was still losing blood and weight. I brought him King Crab legs and set us up out on the sunny patio to make as much mess as he liked. The next day I had a watercress salad and Foie Gras that I'd brought back from the good part of our trip.
One day I broke him out between doctors' appointments and took him to an English Pub for steak and kidney pie. The tide turned.
TAO's been home for a couple of weeks and has visiting therapists and nurses. They've been great. He walks with a walker now to the end of the driveway and back with a short rest on a wall along the way.
The wheelchair we use for longer distances like the Sunday visit to the ocean. There's some surgery ahead. We have a consult next week but Our doctors collaborate and communicate and some even speak a little French.
The greatest loss is TAO's memory but it's my loss, not his. He always did live in the moment, not unlike a puppy. He leaves memories of pain at the threshold of each new day and doesn't worry about the future.
And, like a puppy, as long as meals appear regularly in front of him, all is well.


  1. Yikes! How scared you must have been. I am so glad everything worked out.

    Your house is amazing!

  2. First time reading here and commenting … hello from Alberta, Canada … how are things now? Love, cat.

    1. Hi Cat, and welcome. Things get better every day and we adjust to the rest. It helped to write this.

  3. Thank goodness you had such insurance back up...people say how wonderful the French health service is but it is like the curate's egg. All depends on where you are.
    We were not impressed.
    And while taking care of the puppy, take care of yourself.

  4. Hi Birdie,It's always something, isn't it? I've been resentful of the "house we pay for but rarely use" in an unfamiliar region where I know no one. That's fixed now. I drove twenty miles to the hospital daily and twenty miles home to what became my quiet haven. I ate alone in local restaurants that were open late and on my path home. Neighbors in the hamlet reached out and were kind. I plan to go again, under different circumstances.
    Yes, I was scared they were going to kill him and scared for our financial survival as my business was closed the whole time.

  5. Hi Fly, My daughter was born in France and the experience with care was great, although we were in a much more cosmopolitan area and it was a few decades ago. The hospital staff were very kind but the bureaucratic knee jerk reactions of fitting within the system in place were the big headache. Let's just say, I believe I will be remembered there.

    1. There was a top rate local hospital which they closed to merge with a disastrous CHU was a disorganised mess, another on top of their work...
      Just depended on where you were...

  6. What an unpleasant experience! and in a foreign country.
    Hope your husband has a smooth recovery and gets well soon!

  7. Wow, how frightening. I'm glad the tide turned. Your haven is a gorgeous one!

  8. A good meal is at least as important as science to recovery.

  9. S&S the food in the French hospital was very much in keeping with the hearty country area. There were andouillette sausages and lentils. Overwhelmingly stodgy for a sick person but well-intentioned. The hospital here in California was lighter but he had no appetite at all. The nursing home food was unrecognizable and, from that final insult he needed rescuing.

  10. Having experienced Kaiser for the last 11 weeks, I can say I am impressed, and still alive, so I have THAT going for me!

  11. Silliyak, so sorry you too have had medical issues but glad you're alive. We've been frequent flyers at Kaiser for so long that the Head of ER invited us to stay with him and his wife in Hawaii after he retired.

    1. Frequent layer miles? (as in laying for treatment)

  12. Wow! What a brave post you have written here. I can't even imagine how I might have dealt with any of it. Catching up way too late. So sorry for this.