I heard a smack, followed by a sound that I never want to hear again for as long as I live. It wasn’t my daughter’s normal cry. It was a high-pitched scream, indicating that something had gone horribly wrong. With a baby still in arm, I sprinted from the kitchen down the stone steps into the “creative” room to find my daughter heavily bleeding from the mouth. I handed baby to my sister-in-law, the saint who had flown over to help keep my tiny humans alive on one of my longest solo parenting jaunts to date.
Délice hadn’t lost consciousness, but as far as I could see, her gums were mangled up. It was hard to see what was going on between the clots and split lip and shifted teeth. Had she lost teeth? I honestly couldn’t tell. My gut told me I needed to take her to the ER.
This, friends, is how I found myself, just eight weeks after moving, trying to figure out where our nearest hospital was and how the emergency services work. With all these stairs in our new house, I should have listened to all the expat recommendations to memorize new emergency numbers, identify hospitals, and preferred doctors, but it was too late now.
I stuffed a wad of kitchen towels inside my frightened daughter’s mouth and tires spun on the gravel as I tore out of our drive. I flew over the speed bumps, paging my husband in Jakarta to call me immediately. I needed to find out how the heck I was to pay for a hospital visit. What papers should I show? At this time, I didn’t even own a carte vitale card, the king of all medical transactions in France. Was my daughter insured under my policy?
Upon arrival, we were met by a stone-faced middle-aged admin assistant with a monotonous voice. She’s the same one you find at American post offices. And German Landesamt offices. Without looking up, she offered us a tissue box and took down my daughter’s date of birth and full name. Thankfully, she didn’t want much. I just had a passport and my small business owner registration number that my husband just texted from Indonesia.
We waited a while for the triage nurses to call our name. A number of people were waiting too. A few patients walked around, and the lucky few sat on cheap plastic chairs in a hall that was bare but for the vending machine. We made it to the triage nurses, sitting behind a counter. They took down basic information about the incident and made an educated guess about her weight before letting me administer the pain killer. Back to the hall of boredom we went.
Finally, we were called back to wait for the doctor in a room behind a sliding door. The pediatrician greeted us and blew up his glove to make Délice a balloon. He couldn’t for the life of him tie the knot. I told him not to bother, but he tried and tried again until the glove-a-loon was sealed.
It was all part of the very relational provider to patient exchange. Délice, clearly not between life and death, was already warming up to Doc. She let him check her out. He felt for broken bones and wiggly teeth. He told us there wasn’t much he could do about baby teeth and we may well lose two of them. We were to feed her purees for a week in case there was a chance the teeth might stay put. I thanked him and we left. Without ever signing a paper.
About a month later, mail arrived from the hospital. It could only be the bill. We shuddered as we opened the envelope. A cover letter informed us not to worry, that the ER invoice amount can be lowered if we opted for a complementary insurance. And there, I read on the pink invoice: montant à payer 9,66 EUR.
Sure, we were left to clean up our own blood off her cheeks, and wait for glove-a-loons to be tied up – hospitals aren’t bright and attractive to kids or handing out presents to their littlest visitors.. but what a breath of fresh air not to go broke over hospital care. Medical offices are rarely places to write home about, but healthcare is good and wow, so low maintenance.
Since our 11 USD hospital visit, I smile each time we receive mail a few weeks after visiting a medical practitioner. “Honey, we might not make it through this year. We just paid 1 Euro for that x-ray” I’ll say jokingly. We’ve had a number of expenses in setting up shop on a new continent, but medical costs are thankfully not one of them.
Featured image courtesy of ActuSanté
This post was part of the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below!
1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.