I’ve been lucky with the flood of visitors over the past few days
Margaret, my most faithful visitor, csme with fresh laundry and a good old natter about our shared views on the state of the world politics. On Friday Heleen Lapthorne called at lunchtime. Her husband, John, had been in the same room a few months ago (and also failed to get emails on his iPad!). Charles and Pierre called by later, as did Pierre Paolicchi, and then David and barbarbara Hart.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, and Sylivia and I sat out in the gardens for the afternoon, joined later by Christine Capieu.

It’s now 3am on Sunday morning a d this afternoon I look forward to a garden visit by Poppy!

This is the reason I chose Le Vgan hospital – to make it easy for people to drop by.

Lost souls

i see things here which can be both sad and funny. They are perhaps more poignant because as I get older I realise I could so easily join these lost souls in the years to come.

I reckon the average age of patients must be nearer 80 than 70. Many are deaf, so one cannot avoid hearing their conversations with nurses or friends on the telephone. Then there is one old man who is not deaf but apparently can no longer speak.

I come across many of these patients at our long physio sessions every day. The moment for the ‘gouter’ – the mid morning snack, I observe that the staff discreetly cover the man who cannot speak (or use one hand) with serviettes before placing a coffee and snack before him. Then there is another old man who arrives at speed on his zimmer and plonks himself onto the first available chair. He too is served with – two cups – of coffee. And then he goes. One of the aides explained to me that he had been here for rééducation, has now passed across to the maison de retraite, but continues to come across here for his morning coffee. And then there is Régis, a young man with I suspect several problems and may be a bit simple. He falls asleep all the time he should be standing up and practising walking.

The corridors are also full of people on zimmers or in wheelchairs going I’m not sure if they know where. A couple of days ago a woman wheeled past my room, stopped and asked ‘Madame, je cherche la chambre 105’. I told her it was further along the corridor. Ten minutes later she passed again ‘Madame, je cherche la chambre de….’ Didn’t catch the name. Sorry, I said, I don’t know that lady. ‘Mais c’est moi,’ she replied ‘Je cherche ma chambre’. We now refer to her as the lady from room 114.

Yesterday I came across a little crisis. I overtook Régis, pushing his zimmer at snail’s pace, turned the corner and there was Didier the physio, trying to stop Madame 114 from taking off alone in the lift while he had time to rescue Régis, who was whimpering he could go no further. I was stuck in the middle, unable to help. I heard Didier telling a nurse we now had a security problem if Mme 114 uses the lift again.

One of my younger neighbours remarked lugubriously it was time she was moved to the second floor. This is apparently a sad, sad place for lost souls and those who are not going to recover, with a security code on the door.

Electricité en panne

Today’s little excitement is a complete break in electricity: no lights, no lifts, no moving beds up and down, and, most important, no bells for patients to ring.

This has been for two hours so far. I’m ok so long as my iPad has battery!


Am I surprised that my communication problems have not been resolved? No!

Yesterday I waited impatiently for the scheduled monthly visit of the informaticien (IT guy) who had been advised of my problems. He came, shook my hand, unsmiling, uncharming…. I was at a disadvantage because at that moment I was strapped to a pulley in order to exercise my leg.

I explained again my problem, stressing that without email and Facetime/Skype I could not communicate with my family. I pointed at my bag and invited him to try out on my iPad. I told him that I have always suspected a firewall – a device which enables providers of Internet services to control exactly which services you can access. No no, he said, with somewhat supercilious contempt, he had not put a firewall on the service offered to patients.

He insisted that nobody else had any problems, so it must be my ipad. I pointed out that email was blocked on ipad, iPhone and Mac. He faced around for a time and then claimed that I was receiving messages ok (only after he left could I see that these were old messages). At my insistence he sent a message to himself from my iPad and said if he did not get it he would return.

The message remained unsent but he did not return. Until, perhaps prodded by a senior nurse who had enquirer after my problems, he returned with – almost – a smile (prodding from senior nurse or the fact that I had two visitors or the fact that he came with bad tidings?)

There was nothing he could do he said as obviously communications with my mail server were being blocked by a firewall! Hang on, I said, you said there was no firewall. No, not on the service provided for patients, but there was a general one for all the hospital servers, there for security reasons.

When I asked him to unblock my access he replied that he could not start making individual changes as this could get out of control and be difficult to manage. I pointed out fruitlessly that there were only seven patients using wifi and this was not an onerous task. His only suggestion was that I should use somebody else’s PC to look at my email. I said I found it incredible that any provider of wifi should block Apple appliances, given they are one of the biggest global players.

Still planning my next move and VERY frustrated and now angry.

Today I tested and found that I can use an email address provided by Orange as part of my internet package. I find that rich, since – unlike Apple, which has only had one very recent security scare – The French Orange service is notoriously insecure. So much so that at least one UK mail provider blocks email coming via Yet it is clearly allowed to go through the firewall.

Battling with my mutuelle

Today’s priority was to sort out my mutuelle (topup insurance) Swisslife – because if they refuse to reimburse I faced bills of over 1000 euros. First I rang the insurance agent in Montpellier, who confirmed that they had indeed received papers from the clinic where I was operated and had transferred money to my bank to cover the 700 euros I had paid out.

Why then, I asked, was the central office in Lille saying they had no records of that period and were therefore refusing to meet any more costs. Ah Madame, she said, it is best to ask them direct. So I phoned Lille (.13 euros the minute and finally 15 minutes later got the reply. They had sent out their letter the day after I transferred here and got the paperwork from the clinic three days later. No reaction when I commented it was a bit excessive to send out such a curt and worrying letter so promptly rather than allow for the post to get to them. No response. Anyhow I demanded a letter confirming that they would indeed be reimbursing (prendre en charge) my costs here. I await to see if I get this letter…..

Just as I finished this call one of the ladies at reception (I’m getting quite friendly with them because of my unresolved wifi problems) said to me apologetically that there seemed to be a problem with my mutuelle. That’s OK, I said, it’s sorted. But no, it was a new problem. Swiss life had told them that I was only entitled to 30 days a year reeducation and of course that was used up in January.

Here we go again. Once more Montpellier was useless and after another long call to Lille they confirmed that I did indeed have unlimited reimbursement of reeducation (although they need to be notified every 21 days if the treatment continues). I played the foreigner with language problems here and insisted they repeated all this to the secretary at reception.

At no point an apology for their administrative incompetence or the distress it might have caused me!

The secretary says they will sort out the 21 day notifications, so hopefully I don’t have to think about health administration for the rest of my stay.

My little world

The upside of being in the little local cottage hospital is that the staff are really friendly and kind, friends can drop by easily and despite its size the physio team has a good reputation. The downside is that I appear to be one of a tiny minority who are not octogenarians and anyhow, since meals are served in our rooms the only time I see other patients (apart from the lost corridor wanderers) is during physio sessions.

Also, because this is an old building I wouldn’t be surprised if the sickly green walls of my room had not changed colour for quite some time. At any rate they bring back vivid memories of my childhood time in hospitals with TB. it’s perhaps one of the reasons I have not worn green until very recently.

And here I was planning to show a photo of the pretty view from my window plus a less flattering one of me in my wheelchair. But guess what, I have discovered that uploading images is yet another protocol not allowed by my damned wifi service.

I was also going to show a photo of the disturbing and incomprehensible letter I got from my mutuel ke (complementary private insurance) saying they were not going to meet the non medical costs for this hospital (food, bedroom etc). Christine Capieu who visited with her neighbour Yvonne couldn’t understand the letter either. My guess is that some crucial paperwork has not been sent to them. Ill have to try to sort it out tomorrow. I find it incredible that when you are recovering from major surgery you have to manage the administration of your healthcare.

Bored and cross

Bored because I’ve had no visitors and there is nothing to at the weekend. The old lady across the corridor would dearly like to spend more time with me but conversation is limited. There is a poor batty old woman who spends the entire day shuffling round the corridors, pushing open any door not shut, presumably searching for something familiar.

Just wrote that paragraph when there was a knock on the door and the Kerridge family trooped in:-) they have had a dramatic my nth with Alison spending time in hospital (no clear diagnosis yet) and then three nights ago they had to abandon their main house and walk down a narrow path beside a rising stream to their tiny guest house, which is on higher ground. The wall (not theirs) at the end of the garden, which usually has a picturesque waterfall cascading into a pool, had collapsed, and the water was advancing steadily towards the house. The mairie has opened a file on this and it will no doubt be an ongoing saga for the coming year. There is more hope of it being repaired though because when there are natural disasters these are paid for out of national rather than local council coffers.

Jenny Kerridge said that one of the epicentres of our storm was at Montardier, a village at the top of the hills I see from my house (and their house is in the valley below). Apparently there was an official measure of over 11 inches (28 cm) between 4 and 9pm and 18 inches (46 cm) over 24 hours!

Well I may no longer be so bored but I am cross. I never imagined I would be spending the weekends alone effectively without phone, email, Skype or FaceTime. Just access to web pages (but thank goodness for that). I’ve had plenty of time to reflect and read up on my problems and realise that the company who have supplied the hospital with wifi have put up a firewall. The poor secretaries haven’t a clue what I’m talking about but on Monday I will try once again to be allowed to communicate direct with their IT guy.

Meanwhile this does mean I’m making good progress on the book my friend Clare Ungerson wrote about a refugee camp in Sandwich (where she now lives) for Jewish men up to and during the war.

Weather and communications: no change

Everybody, but everybody, talks about the weather. There are endless stories of houses flooded, stone walls that have fallen, roads that became rivers, streams that became torrents.

Some places have been worse hit than Le Vigan, but here a stream turned into a torrent and literally broke into Weldom, one of our two DIY stores, destroying most of their stock, as well as flooding Lidl next door. The story I have heard is that the couple who have the Weldom franchise are giving up. Margaret says there is very little fresh food in the other two supermarkets as there have been no deliveries for days.

Just frequent heavy showers today, But more storms are forecast for tomorrow, and then sun and 25 degrees. We hope.

It is difficult in these circumstances to moan about my communications problems. At least I can at last use the internet (with hiccups) otherwise I would go potty. But the wifi service is not allowing me to send or receive emails (it also won’t allow VPN so I can’t watch British TV). And email via satellite (3G) only works sometimes and only on my iPhone (not enough credit on my ipad). To cap it all my landline has still not been fixed. So… I eventually get your emails, possibly the next day, but I do seem to get text messages more reliably.

Think positive

My days are filled with physio sessions. I spend the best part of five hours either doing various exercises or taking pauses between them. As I cannot put any weight on my left foot many of the exercises are working with weights to strengthen muscles on the left side. I spend an hour on a machine which bends and moves the leg, to retain flexibility, and have a thoroughly boring session with pulleys to strengthen my arms and shoulders for when I can use crutches.

Most of the other patients doing physio are a good ten years or more older than me and some are a bit lost in a world of their own. I try not to think that could be me in ten years time as I watch them totter dangerously with their Zimmer frames. The staff are really good and kind. I particularly like the woman physio who always has gentle words of encouragement for everybody. (She has not once complained that because the road to Ganges is one of many still blocked there are no buses and she hitches from St Bauzille, which must be at least 25 km from here.)

Now that I have seen more of the doctor, I like her too and respect her judgement.

My next landmarks are a trip to Ganges on 6th October for x-rays and then two days later to Montpellier, to see my surgeon and get the verdict on whether the bone graft has worked.