Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going to the doctor in France (A Mostly Magical Adventure Tale)

I should apologize in advance, because this post is very long and not overly exciting. There will be more interesting post coming soon, I promise, and they will also have plenty of pictures! But until then, you are stuck with this post about my magical adventure at the doctor's office. (Well, it wasn't really magical but that at least made it sound cooler). So last Sunday when I woke up I wasn't feeling very well and basically got progressively worse Monday and Tuesday. No fever but a really bad sore throat that was making it painful/difficult to eat (not that it was stopping me from doing so, nothing comes between me and food). So Tuesday I was talking to our resident director in the Sweet Briar office between classes and she offered to make an appointment for me at the doctor's office around the corner. Normally I would've waited longer before going but I wouldn't have had any time for the next two days so luckily they were able to fit me in for that afternoon.

The way our insurance through SBC works is that we pay in full (except in severe, super expensive cases) and then file a claim and are reimbursed in full. Which is fine. I figured I would pay with my card, no problem. So I head over to the office after classes and first wait about 5 minutes to take the elevator one floor up because the stairwell had some sign on it and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take it. Then I get to the office and rather than immediately check in at the front desk, there is a little machine where you take a number and then there is a small screen that shows what number is being called next, and which of the 4 receptionists you should go to. Kind of like the DMV. Or the deli at the grocery store. The only problem was that the tiny kiosk where you get your number had a series of different options, and I was able to narrow it down to two. Normal visit with (some random abbreviation), and normal visit without (this random abbreviation). Everyone there looked busy, or exhausted, or diseased so I didn't want to ask, and just assumed the abbreviation must be for the nationalized insurance, which obviously I didn't have. Turns out it means appointment. So I waited a long time to be given a form to fill out, halfway through I mention the doctor's name I should be seeing and then the receptionist realized the mistake. I should also mention that the other reason they assumed I didn't have an appointment was because my name wasn't on the list or in the system even though I gave them my info over the phone earlier. So that was highly annoying. She then told me that it would be €23 (which is crazy, I mean only €23 to see a doctor! That's basically my co-pay to see a doctor at home!!!) and that I could only pay in cash. Crap. I had about €5 with me.

So, I left the office to use the ATM at the bank on the corner. Only problem was the one ATM that it had (and I mean seriously, only one? Every other bank has 2-5 ATMs!) was not working. So I basically ran around the neighborhood trying to find an ATM. Now remember this is after a decently long day of classes when I feel terrible and just want to go home and sleep; I was not happy. I've also noticed that Parisians are not always in a rush when I am. They walk slowly while taking up the entire sidewalk, they are in no rush as cashiers even when the line is 10 min long, and even the girl at the doctor's office was in no rush to fix the problem with me not being in the system and took several minutes to chat with her co-worker about when they were working next. Eventually I found another ATM and after a long wait, finally got to see the doctor.

Seeing a doctor in France is not at all like seeing a doctor in the US. For starters, there is no nurse that comes in to take your temperature and blood pressure and get information about what medications you are taking and what's wrong. You just go in and sit at the doctor's desk and he asks why you are here. When I said my throat was hurting he had me sit on the examining table, looked at my throat, took my temperature, listened to my lungs and felt the glands on my neck. Then just said oh yep, it's "une angine" and prescribed me some antibiotics and throat spray (although he did ask if I was allergic to any medications first) and showed me out. I figured I would look up what "une angine" is when I got home and it could either mean strep, tonsillitis, or just a throat infection, so I still have no idea what was wrong with me except that every French person knows exactly what I have when I say "une angine". But the antibiotics worked a miracle and I felt better in 48 hours.

So what can we take away from this long, fairly boring story? First, going to the doctor is much cheaper in France. Second, because it is so much cheaper, doctors don't spend much time with each patient or ask about other things that might be wrong except those related to the exact reason that you came. Third, the French clearly don't worry about lawsuits as much because they don't spend time testing for every possible malady before prescribing meds. Fourth, they clearly know what they are doing because I felt better very quickly.

I should also note that the pharmacies here are awesome! There is no dropping off a prescription and then either waiting there for it to be filled, or coming back in a few hours. In France, you see the pharmacist, he gets your information briefly and the goes and gets exactly what you need right there and then. I couldn't have been there longer than 5 minutes total, it was awesome! I'm guessing sometimes there is a line to see one of the pharmacists but there wasn't when I was there. So yeah, that part was awesome and they were also super nice!

So yeah, that was my experience (so far) with the French healthcare system. Sorry I haven't had a chance to write anything in a while, the past week has been kinda crazy with everything going on. As most of you probably know my dad had an accident on his bike on Tuesday morning and has been in the hospital; but despite all of the injuries, he's been recovering well. I just want to thank everyone who has been there for us, and especially for my mom. Since she is still recovering from her own surgery, I know it's been really rough on her. But thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to help her out and make sure we are all ok. It's been really hard to be away from home these past few days because I know she could use an extra person around to help, but knowing we have so many wonderful friends and family members taking care of her makes me feel so much better! We are very blessed to have so many amazing people around us.


  1. Hey Mallory, it's Janelle. I can't believe no one has commented yet! I asked your mom to share the link to your blog so I hope you don't mind.

    I'm glad you're feeling better. Your parents are being taken care of very well so you don't have to worry about them. When I stopped in to visit your mom a week or two ago, Ian was making his famous bacon + vegetarian baked beans. haha. So basically things are as normal as can be, considering the recent events :)

    Enjoying your blog... keep writing!

  2. Janelle is clearly smarter than your mother becaused i have typed comments in on several occasions yet they don't display meaning I am doing something wromg. I am trying again. If this works I will add more.

  3. Finally! I only had to jump through a dozen or so hoops to set up an account to publish my comments. Janelle is correct that we are being taken care of, and I appreciate your concern for me and dad. I am thankful that Ian did not take that job in OH now because he is my extra set of hands around the house :) I am so happy that you are well and happy. one less thing for me to worry about. love you!

  4. Well thank you for taking the time to figure it out though :) Comments make me happy!