I have not talked about my health for the past six weeks, partly to give readers a break. But much of this time has been taken up with trips to physiotherapists.
I have continued to see Joceline, my usual kiné, twice a week. She gently manipulates and massages the joints and muscles. I don’t know whether it is helping or not, but I have increasing understanding of what she is trying to do and respect for the way she thinks about my problems.
All that is using the clinic’s original prescription made when I left at the end of January. At the same time I have been using the surgeon’s prescription to have two sessions a week with a more traditional physio, since the surgeon wanted me to work with pulleys and weights, to try to hasten the strengthening of the tendons and muscles.
There is not much choice in le Vigan and I have ended up with a practise which to me feels more like a business gym than a physiotherapy centre. There is an impressive array of kit and while others pedal and work on treadmills, I puff away doing over a hundred pulls on a complicated machine with pulleys, followed by an even more exhausting lifting of weights (lying on my back pushing the weights up). There is little personal contact with the physio – ‘le grand chef’ as the secretary (his sister) refers to him – who wanders around dispensing encouragement and little words of advice to people. I reckon the others (mainly women) are regulars. Some come armed with plates of home baked biscuits (there is much exchanging of recipes – not by me…).
One of the two sessions I spend in the pool. This is quite different. The physio is a handsome young man with a pleasant, sympathetic manner, who works hard at giving each person routine for their particular ailment. I find the exercises, which are much more ike those I was doing in the clinic, have an obvious relation to the needs to make my shoulder more mobile. Yesterday one of the other women was someone who I had already met in the pulleys and pedals room. One of the baking enthusiasts, she was also a failed candidate on the Divers Droite list in le Vigan – I get the feeling that the general politics at the kiné is right rather than left. About 50, she simply fell at work, broke both arms and tore the tendons in her shoulder.
Am I getting better? Well, my mobility is better, though for me the acid test, reaching for the cups on the second shelf up in the kitchen, has not yet been passed. But worryingly my hand problems remain: in particular the thumb and first two fingers are both numb and sensitive. I know the surgeon has said that this will eventually disappear, but I am not convinced. Nor is Joceline and she has urged me to see a local doctor.
Rather than going to my rather strait laced, uncommunicative GP, I made an appointment to see the young woman who is currently renting the other room in his practice for two days a week. Maëlle is the daughter of a friend of mine and her husband, a goat farmer, is the nephew of Jacky, the guy building my pool! I shouldn’t be surprised, as the ‘alternative’ society here is quite a small network.
This is the second time I have seen Maëlle. I went to ask for advice rather than treatment, both concerning my hand and my left hip, which is becoming increasingly painful and disabling. I was delighted with the nature of the session (She took nearly an hour with me!). She is young, friendly and informal (she instantly used tu rather than vous). More important, she really listened and in her examination took pains to explain problems, diagnoses, options, and was ready to admit that she was not at all sure of the cause of either problem.
The problems with my fingers are almost certainly caused by a pinched or damaged nerve, but the question is where – hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder. She rang a couple of people to find out the best place to send me for an electromyogram of the hand (she is too young and new to know her way round the specialists yet). I’m getting this done at the end of this month by the rheumatologist in Ganges (the same one who is injecting my knee tomorrow!).
Her take on my hip was more depressing. I have convinced myself (and Joceline agrees) that the increasing pain is because the original hip replacement, dating from 2000, is wearing out. Maëlle was not sure that the problem was not my back, as many of the symptoms suggest pressure on the sciatic nerve. Or it could be both. Anyhow, she has given me another prescription, for a scan of the sacra lumbar region of the spine and the left hip. I get these done on Monday. It sounds silly, but I’m hoping it is just my hip and that the problem can be resolve by a new hip replacement this autumn.
Another decision I have to make, probably quite soon, is whether to switch doctors. For years Chris and I were looked after by Doctor Steimer, who retired a couple of years ago.. I have never been at ease with his replacement. He is a decent enough man, but much more strait-laced and conventional than Steimer, and I don’t get the feeling that he listens. It is true he has taken over a huge practice – that of both Steimers, husband and wife.
Maëlle is about to open a new practice with two other doctors, one of whom is an acupuncturist. The emphasis will be much more on Chinese and alternative medicine, alongside traditional stuff. The main problem is that Maëlle has four small children (including toddler twins), plus she and her husband are home educating the two older ones, at least for the time being. She she is unlikely to work for more than two days a week for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it is getting increasingly difficult to see my current doctor within a week, unless I say it is urgent. So what have I got to lose? Or rather, what have I got to gain: a young, personable GP who listens and explains and would be there for the years to come.