Our French Life

The One With Second Degree Burns Part II

hospital 2

Where was I? If you haven’t read about how I came about my 2nd degree burns you can read about it here.  So having pierced one of the blisters (with a sterile needle) the night of the fireworks and shoving a plaster over it – I went to bed and managed to get some sleep. The next morning, as instructed by all and sundry,  I made my way to our local A&E (urgence) straight from the school run with the words “sepsis” ringing in my ears. Better to be safe than sorry. Right?

I arrived to an empty urgence. If and when you do move to France this is a bit surreal – did you ever see that BBC TV show “The Day Of The Triffids”? Well it’s like that. Well it is here on my Normandy patch. You want to exclaim, to no one in particular, “my god there’s no one here!” “I’m alive, I’m alive and I don’t care who knows it” like Buddy in the movie Elf or “blimey in the UK I could be waiting 5 hours to see someone!” But nope I didn’t even have anyone to say this to. So obviously I took a picture and posted it to facebook. My motto goes something like this “if it ain’t on facebook it didn’t happen”. I jest I am not that sad…well maybe a little.

As normal (this is my third visit now – I went twice with my daughter last year) it takes longer to check in than it does to see a nurse. Papers, mutelle, quick chat about how there are English (initiated by the nurses) that have lived here for 20 years and don’t speak it and stroking my ego comments of your French is not bad. It is passable but it just so happens that most of my older fellow countrymen/women (that includes you Brits as well!) have non-existent French. So it gives the illusion that I’m a good speaker – I’m not telling them anytime soon – so just take the bones when they’re thrown at you.


I plonk myself down (picture uploaded to facebook) and wait to be called. A girl enters – young approx 17 – she is crying and for some reason I think “ça va?” is a sensible question. Naturally she replies “no” and I ask her if she’s in pain. Yes she nods – here ended the conversation as I’m called in by the nurse. I go into the treatment room for the third time and wait to see the doctor.

Now about 10 minutes later this guy comes in, wearing a coat, a bit unshaven and just moches around the room. I genuinely thought he was the cleaner. I just stared at him thinking who is this random guy? He asks “english?” “yes” it was only when he turned around that his gilet jeune gave the game away it had doctor plasted on the back of it. Ahh you’re the doctor. Maybe I should have paid more attention to his blue scrubs but in the UK doctors generally, by and large, enter the room and say something along the lines of “hello, I’m doctor X what have we got here then?”. Cue an icebreaker and then down to business. Nope. Not here. Not only that they don’t really tell you what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. Mr Normandy says it’s how it was years ago – you don’t question, the doctor is right and you do as you’re told. They’re kind of bossy all the ones that I have met – fairly nice but good luck with disagreeing with them.

bandage 1

Anyhow, this chap decides to tell the nurse to make several pin pricks all over the blisters and to dress it. Whilst she’s doing this one lens from my favourite set of glasses (as in not the free pair where the lenses aren’t like milk bottle tops) decide to fall out. Great. Could this day get any better? I manage to keep the screw that holds it together but as I’ve driven here I kind of need to see to get back home. The nurse kindly finds me some sticky tape just to complete my Mr Bump look.

The doctor is also concerned about my russian ring. I told him it’s not to be cut – he’s a bit huffy about this but he concedes. He also tells me that I must come back in two days time and straight away if I feel ill etc. He said it’s very important. So away I went feeling and looking like an idiot but I’m still alive and sepsis hasn’t taken over. When I arrive at my old neighbour’s house (the one that found the fireworks) my husband is also there. They both burst out laughing and run to get their devices to take a picture. Har bloody har.

Two days later, I return back to the hospital fairly confident that they will re-dress the bandages and I’ll be on my merry way. Nope. It doesn’t happen like this. This time I have a different doctor. He hails from Tunisia originally and we have a chat for about 15 minutes about why we moved, France and general getting to know you type stuff. I spoke in French and he then started doing the whole talking English, me back in French and then me throwing in the towel. I now realise this was just an ice-breaker, a prelude to stripping the skin back from my fingers.

I’m no expert but this looked pretty darn fine to me.
Pre-ring being grinded off!

Now from this picture – knowing nothing about burns – I’d say I was good to go. Anyhow, this chap (again I never found our his name) said you’ll need some pain relief. I was like say what? He said we need to clean it properly. I did say “really?” “pain relief?”. So in comes a nurse, lovely she was and again was speaking a bit of English then French. It kind of lures you into a false sense of security, as later on when everyone was having an English party and I replied, the doctor said you mush try hard with the language. What?!  You started it luv! I was quite happy dishing out my French in any order it comes out and now I’m getting told off?! We are going to fall out big style matey boy.

Anyhow, turns out this pain relief  (via a facemask) is morphine and is better stuff than I’ve ever had. By the way, no one asked me if I was pregnant – nope I was having some morphine, no consent, no “do you have a friend that can take you home?”. I did think this is a bit extreme for a clean isn’t it. Then he says the ring has to come off. I said no, no it’s not. Try and get it off with the cream – he couldn’t by now he’s becoming annoyed with me. I’m not playing ball and he says nope it’s coming off.

The story with this is that it is a Cartier ring. It stands for “love, fidelity and friendship” granted I did want an engagement ring but this was the next best thing at the time. It’s probably the only piece of expensive jewellery that I haven’t broken or lost, that Mr Normandy has purchased for me, in his loved up days. Am pretty sure now Elizabeth Arden at Argos is too good for me now. He gave it to me when I was pregnant with our eldest and I had taken it off during the pregnancy due to weight gain water retention. I decided to put it on one night when we went out for dinner with friends. Big mistake. That evening it was cutting the blood supply off to my finger and Mr Normandy had to hacksaw one of the rings. So you see, this ring had already been cut and repaired once.


After a week’s dressing by the nurses. They are nearly as good as new now.

In come three nurses (I already have one holding the mask to my face) one with a key to the grinder cabinet and two others to carry out the massacre of my ring. The key holder leaves making a jokey comment about that’s cooking for you, whilst the other two get to work. They merrily grind off all three rings. At this point, I’m sorry to say to the Croydon massive, I started to cry. I felt I needed someone in this torture chamber with me. I only needed my fingers to be dressed for god’s sake! The doctor is merrily pulling all the blistered skin back with tweezers and then cleans it. I look at my Freddy Kruger hands and he makes a joke about “it’s not pretty” and the follows it up with “like you!” I respond with yeah “rigolo” (funny).  Watching M6 French telly has not been wasted on me let me tell you.

So not only have you put my marriage on the line by chopping my ring in 3 pieces you’re calling me ugly?! Of course not. The nurse tells him the error of his ways. He’s a bit put out that her English is better than his. He corrects himself by explaining he meant it’s not pretty but you are. Again, really not feeling the appropriateness of the Doctor flirting whilst holding the morphine to my face.  Although on reflection I am now 45 and I’ll take what I can get so thank you young Doctor for that bone.

The wound was dressed – this whole drama took about 1 hour 30 minutes. I was a bit shell-shocked and out of it to be honest.  The doctor gives me a prescription for all the dressing I’m going to need and tells me a nurse needs to do this everyday. Thankfully in our village there are 4 nurses at a drop in centre – 7 days a week. He also tells me I may need a skin graft (WTF!) and need to go to the burns unit in Nantes a good 2.5 hours drive away. Again I’m like “really?”.

One thing I’ve learnt about the health system here is, yes it’s great and very preventative but when you’re used to a “if it’s not better in a couple of weeks” NHS approach, it can feel a bit over kill. They are overly cautious.  This is a good thing but ultimately I didn’t need to go to Nantes for a skin graft.

Having said this, I did receive prompt care for my burns and maybe this is preferable to a more caring bedside manner. I think the reason I felt that the Doctor had been over zealous was because, at no time, did he really explain why and what he was going to do to my fingers. So if you so happen to find yourself in an A&E in France, don’t assume the doctor is the caretaker and try and get them to explain what is going to happen to you. It might help you understand what you just went through!

You have been reading Our Normandy life.




2 thoughts on “The One With Second Degree Burns Part II”

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