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How We Ended the Year in the ER in France

Poor Feng...!
Poor Feng…!

There is a French saying that goes “thou shall always cut your kid’s nails.” And an ancient Chinese proverb says “never wrestle a baby to sleep.”

Well, maybe not. But there should be. And honestly, children should come with such warning tags.

So, our last day in France was… interesting.

For some reason, Mark thought 5 a.m. was the perfect time to wake up and start demanding attention. He wasn’t hungry, he wasn’t sick—there was nothing wrong with him, he just didn’t feel like sleeping.

Which was too bad considering that we did and that he had gone to sleep only hours ago, around 11 p.m. the previous night. Tired and very sleepy, Feng and I tried to put him in the bed with us to go back to sleep but he kept on fighting back.

And that’s how he scratched Feng’s eye.

Okay, my fault. I am pretty anal at cutting his nails but in France, I didn’t have a chance. Mind you, it’s not like they were super long but long enough to hit Feng right in the eye.

He was in pain, a lot of pain. He couldn’t open his eye and washing it and icing it made no difference.

On a Saturday morning, options were limited. We left Mark with my parents and headed to the ER.

My parents live within walking distance of the main hospital and I have made a few trips there before, most recently with my grandparents, so I knew where to go.

We showed up at “les admissions” where I explained my husband had been attacked by a fourteen-month-old who didn’t feel like sleeping. No “carte vitale,” I added, we were Canadians and thus not covered by the French healthcare system—but no one seemed to care. I only promised to come back to pay for the consultation after seeing a doctor.

After filling up some paperwork, we were taken behind a locked door to the waiting room. Because Feng was in a lot of pain—and presumably because an eye is a pretty tricky organ—we were told someone would come shortly.

We waited on a bench, in the hallway, stuck between the “stitches room” (mostly teens who had gotten in a drunk fight) and the “cast room” (mostly old ladies who had fallen in the shower).

After a thirty-minute wait, two interns took us to the “stitches room.” They gave Feng some local anesthetic to help with the pain and put some orange-colour eye drops to inspect his cornea. After a minute or so, the two interns and I saw a green “stain” right on his iris. Yep, the cornea was scratched.

The ophthalmologist on duty was called but there wasn’t much to do he said, except put eye drops, eye ointment and wait for it to heal. He wrote a prescription and wished us luck.

We returned to “admission” to pay. The employee typed in something and paused. “Ah mais non!” she said. “You cannot pay!”


“Well, we are December 28.”

“… And?”

“And we closed the books for this year. We can’t accept any more payments. Well, not until 2014.”

Seriously. Only in France.

“Oh well,” she said. “We have your address in Canada. We will send you the bill. Eventually. Or not… sometimes they forget, you know.”

Out of curiosity, I asked how much we owe. “Around 22 euros,” she said.

Wow. Gotta love countries with a good healthcare system!

On the way back, we stopped by the pharmacy to pick up the medicine. Again, we explained we were not covered by “la sécu” and that we will pay cash. The total? 12 euros for a full bag of eye medicine. I returned to the pharmacy later in the day and asked for a refill, definitely cheaper than in Canada!

Exhausted (the two of us) and in pain (Feng), we spent our last day in France dazed and confused.

And no, Mark didn’t apologize. The nerve!

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