Thursday, 30 July 2009

My First Day in France

Up until this afternoon, I thought that my first blog post might be about my new flat, which is light and airy and even has an upstairs. I might have written about how my landlord has been incredibly kind, giving me plates, a microwave and a mattress when I appeared to collect the keys to my (unfurnished) flat with nothing but a suitcase to put in it. I could have written about the town, which is so perfect looking that it was almost a relief to see two tramps sitting on a bench the other day. I wanted to say how pleased I was that the council has put free wifi in the market square so that I could post my blog.

But then this happened instead.



The good part was that 4 of my 5 boxes arrived this morning, 3 days before I was expecting them. I went to the post office to collect them, one by one, and sweated my way back to the flat, which luckily is only 2 minutes walk from the post office. I opened them and began to unpack, despite having nowhere to put most of the stuff.

The last box was the one with the kitchen equipment. I put all the dishes in the sink to wash them and sliced my thumb with the handle of a mug, which had broken to leave a sharp, sharp edge.

Blood spurted everywhere. Having nothing much to stop the blood with, I tried paper napkins and an oven glove before laying my hands on an old tubigrip, which was the closest thing to medical equipment that I could find. I felt really sick and had to lie down and I think I blacked out for a second or two. And all this time, I was realising that I had no idea what to do and nobody to help me.

I started to feel a little bit better and had a look at the cut, which promptly made me feel worse again. The bleeding was slowing down, but it looked pretty deep. I decided to go to the pharmacy, where they could give me a dressing and some advice. (Pharmacists in France are obliged to give you first aid if you need it.) This being France, there are 4 pharmacies within spitting distance of my house and I was there in about a minute, still with blood splattered on my feet and a tubigrip around my thumb.

The pharmacist put a dressing on it but when she saw how deep it was and that I was still feeling sick, she told me to go to A and E to get them to look at it. Conveniently, the hospital is only a few minutes' walk from my house.

I was really surprised by how quiet it was. I saw almost nobody in the corridors and when I got to A and E there was only one other person waiting. I didn't have to wait long before the nurse came to clean the cut with iodine. She said something about it maybe needing stitches, the thought of which made me feel sick again, but when the doctor came, he glued it back together instead and another nurse came to give me an enormous bandage. Finally, the first nurse came back to give me a tetanus injection and send me on my way with a certificate to say what had happened (I felt so proud...)

So, the good news is that I can say that my experience of the French healthcare system lived up to its reputation and I probably could not have chosen a better location to have an accident, and the Parisians failed to live up to their reputation by being incredibly kind and friendly.

The bad news is that I can hardly use my right hand at all (I'm typing with 7 fingers at the moment), which means no lifting, no carrying, no trips to Carrefour to buy kitchen equipment and no visits to Ikea to actually get some furniture. I'm stuck here alone and only able to fill the days with whatever I can do (literally) single-handedly. Guess I better try to make some friends fast!

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