I woke up in Moutiers hospital ready for my shoulder surgery. Unfortunately it wasn’t as straight forward as I had expected. Having been prepped for theatre the surgeon came into the room – in his late fifties he said he didn’t speak a word of english. So, surrounded by nurses who were doing their best to translate the words I didn’t understand, he explained that the operation was too complex for him as the fracture was ‘tres sévère’, and that the bone was so badly broken he thought I would need a shoulder replacement and that I should go home. As long as I had the operation in a couple of days it would be fine.
No sooner had he left the room than the hospital administrator arrived with a sheet of paper – ‘follow these three steps with your insurance company – and start now’ he said as he presented me with a bill for €1300!
Despite the IV which was pumping me full of painkillers I was in pain and incredibly upset by the news I had so I called my husband, George, who came to the hospital to help me make arrangements.
Well, if only it was that simple. It became apparent that the ward was 90% full of Brits who had been on skiing holiday who were trying to make their way home. One poor man had broken his back and although he was able to walk in a brace had been stuck there 10 days while the insurance tried to sort out transport!
There followed a whole day of phone calls, faxs,forms and by the end of the day we had got nowhere. I was so upset. One of the key problems was that the insurance company would send their form over in english, the hospital would fill in a different french form and then we would have to wait for the form to be translated. I was beginning to see how people were stuck in the hospital for so long.
One of the complicating factors was the IV – so I asked the nurse to take it down and give me oral medication – which I supplemented with the medication that George had got from the pharmacy in the mountains.
While George battled it out with the insurance, I tried to sort out a hospital admission in the UK – again no mean feat as I was not in the UK system, and I believed up against the clock.
I contacted my GP who was simply brilliant. That night, about 9:30pm French time she called me back and had a long chat with me about how I was, what my arm looked like and what I had been told. She had contacted a specialist shoulder surgeon in my home town who had told her there was no hurry to have the shoulder operated on, and that he would see me when I returned. I was a little relieved but not wholly as neither the UK surgeon nor my GP had seen the x rays.
I went to sleep hopeful that I would get home tomorrow….