Yes, I know it is hot everywhere, but it is hard to enjoy temperatures soaring 35-40 in the afternoon when you are not only wearing compression stockings but a multi-layered thick support corset.

Maëlle gave me a prescription for a second corset and when Margaret came over for a swim on Friday, we decided to experiment with me going in the water corset and all, and changing to a dry one after.

Luckily I know Margaret well, as there is nothing more undignified than struggling on the bed, like a beached whale, while she took one off and then put the new one on.  In the clinic this was done by two people – and they were not giggling like we were.

That has put me off the idea of bathing a little.  Instead, yesterday, when my friends Francis and Mireille came over, I opted instead for paddling up to my knees.  That was refreshing, and just sitting in the shade beside the water, listening to the cascades and watching the dragonflies, is a pleasure.

I can’t remember when it last rained – in June?  At any rate, this intense, rather heavy heat is set to continue for at least a month, with the occasional storm warning.  So far, like yesterday, these come to nothing: some clouds collect – and then they retreat back.

Ongoing medical support

I was very touched when my GP, Maëlle rang me at 9pm (she was still in her surgery, dealing with the day’s paperwork) to ask how I was and to sympathise. Then she read me a lecture about not contacting her enough when I had problems and stressed that any time I needed something, to phone or go and see her.

I currently rattle with the large number of pills I take a day, either to protect my stomach or to try to make my reluctant intestines budge.

Then I am supposed to have an anti-coagulant injection once a day for a week.  The nurse Chris and I used has retired, but I have found another group of four (one lives in the next village) who seem very nice and efficient. I offered to go into le Vigan for the injection, but they said it was easier to fit me into their rounds.



A visit to the notaire

At last, the VSL (ambulance-taxi) came and I left the clinique – for a month. First stop: the notaire’s office in le Vigan.  I needed to get the notaire, Maître Burtet, to produce documents on our home ownership here as part of the voluminous papers I am having to collect to back up my applications for a carte de séjour permanente and eventually (double) French nationality.  Thank you Brexiteers.

Despite his  grandiose title and room full of weighty legal tomes, Burtet is an affable guy in his forties and, on this very hot day, sporting shorts. He quickly understood what I wanted and produced an attestation which fitted in details like the change of houses in 2008, after Chris died, and the complication of having land which straddles two lieux-dits, Couloustrine and Pied Méjean. And he added a plan from the cadastre – the official register of land – showing clearly the two houses and their relative lieux-dits.

Interestingly he said I was not the first Brit to come to him for these documents because of Brexit.  This interests me as I have yet to meet anybody round here who is doing anything: they are mostly putting their heads in the sand and hoping Brexit will go away or that they can believe all the locals who assure us we are OK.

Business done, there was the question of the bill. Would I need a receipt, he asked, and no, I replied.  Then the charge would be 40 euros. It turned out he did not accept bank cards, I didn’t have a cheque book with me, and when opened my purse, found I had only 20 euros left.  He laughed and said that would do – indicating with his hands that this was a simple unofficial transaction.  I don’t think I need to feel very guilty as notaires make comfortable sums on property sales.


Sortie? Not quite yet

At ten this morning Pierre and I had our cases packed and were all set to leave. What followed was a long, frustrating day.

The secretary who organises departures gave me my papers – prescriptions and note for my GP and said I could leave. Pierre still had to see the surgeon, Dr Terk, before he could leave. But I dug my heels in and said I wanted to see him too; I had seen him only briefly, perhaps twice since last Friday, when my doctor left on holiday, and I had questions to ask.

There was no problem about this and we were asked to wait till he came up to visit us. So we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally he turned up just before four, having apparently been working in Montpellier and then arriving to a backlog here.

I asked Dr Terk how he could be sure there was no occlusion any more, given – that magic phrase – I have had no selles for ten days. He was reassuring and said Dr Glaise had warned him that my system was very lethargic and anyhow I had at least had les gazes. But would I like a second scan to confirm there was no problem?

Yes please, I said. So Pierre went off home and I unpacked my bag for another night (apparently I can’t just have the scan and then go home).  Shortly after the scan Dr Terki came by with the results, this time more relaxed and slightly less rushed.

He confirmed there was no occlusion but that the system is full of ‘matières’ – stuff – evidence that I now have a system really travelling in the slow lane. (About to have the final indignity – an enema.) interestingly he added that the two (!) hernias are quite small and at present not problematic, though I still have to wear my corset till I next see Dr Glaise on 9 August.

So the next stage is a series of appointment and tests in August.

A companion

Yesterday my friend Pierre (Charles, Pierre and 8 play music together) arrived for a minor op (also a hernia). Since his blood is not coagulating enough, his op has been postponed a day and he is in a room opposite me.

This morning we walked together over the bridge and played the game of which building we would buy. I have my eye on a filature with magnificent tall arched widows and a first floor roof terrace looking over the river. Pierre said no, a nineteenth century building was not old enough for him. It had to be the last house, a massive building probably going back to the fifteenth or sixteenth century.

Pierre conceded that if we lived here, my filature would probably serve us better as a music room. I think always of lovely it was playing music in the beautifully restored magnanerie (where formerly the silk worms were cultivated) belingong to my friend Tom Vernon, whom I still miss.

The last stage

I have just had my first meal for eight days and despite its blandness I devoured it with enthusiasm: like yesterday, a soup with vermicelli, a pot of apple purée and a yoghurt. But this time I also had a slice of ham (which I normally don’t touch, mashed potato and a tiny bread bun.

On Sunday I was liberated from the drip – or rather, it packed up and there were no more veins to use without anaesthetist. This means I can now walk outside. I cross the old bridge, which I love, and dawdle along the row of old filatures (silk factories) beside the river. I don’t go far as it is hot – over 35 – and I am feeling the effects of a week effectively without food.

I still cannot have a shower, as I have now been put into a corset to keep the hernia in place and apparently have to wear this non-stop until the operation!

The famous transit is not making much progress. Now Dr Terki, who replaces my surgeon, Dr Glaise, for her two weeks holiday, said that I should go home tomorrow, returning here if there is another crise while 8 wait fir Dr Glaise.

I am delighted but apprehensive. Dr Terki seems nice enough , but I don’t have the same confidence in him as I do in Dr Glaise. And whatever happens I really don’t want to spend another eight hours in Urgences. I’m well known here now as the patient with problematic veins and le transit qui ne marche pas! Several nurses remember these problems from my last stay, in June.

Now my friends Hans and  Margaret (as always bricks – looking after Poppy, shopping, delivering clothes…) are getting me some basic food so I can resume my strict diet at home.

Le transit

I’m nearer the end of this particular hospital stay: the digestive system is slooowly coming to life again. And once again I’m struck by the no-nonsense way the French talk about their innards!

I feel I have contributed to this progress. Now that I am no longer hampered by the stomach pump, I’m  under instructions to walk as much as possible up and down the corridor (not easy when you are pushing a drip stand). Today I stepped up my daily quota to 40 times back and forth. Since I reckon the corridor is about 50 metres long, I did about 4km today.

My reward is that I am back on meals. Sort of. R is for régime or diet and I am on R1. This consists of a bowl of ‘soup’ – more like a watered down stock cube. Must be getting better. I fancy something more.

Still I am feeling better and looking forward to the next step: the removal of the drip, which amazingly keeps dripping on. The needle is in the crease of the elbow so i have to constantly remember not to bend my arm too much.

Just thought i would finish this by putting up the usual picture of the view from my window. I do love the majestic great plane trees.

Doctor visits

Dr Glaise arrived on her daily visit. Her first act was to remove the horrible stomach pump. It has done its work: I have an empty stomach. I responded with “vous êtes une ange!”.

Now for the long and tedious stage: ‘le transit’. As I know from my previous digestive traumas, last month and in 2015 after the cancer op, my system takes a long time to recover. I expect many questions over the coming days about les gazes.

Dr Glaise explained that my current problem was an occlusion or blockage in the intestine, probably caused by the hernia which had already been identified just below the stomach and which was to have been looked at in August. She said this occlusion was not caused by last month’s stomach  ulcer but the poor state of the intestines could well have been affected by my cancer op and subsequent radiotherapy.

She goes on holiday for a fortnight tomorrow. Nice for her, I said, but not for me. She laughed, luckily. I will be leaving the clinique as soon as the digestive system is functioning again and Dr Glaise will operate at the end of August, just before she goes off on maternity leave. Before then I will have another consultation with her, plus with her colleague, Dr Vandome to arrange for the planned endoscopy and colonoscopy, and with Dr Perez, a cardiologist.

In the meantime I am going to have to wear a corset, to hold in the hernia. Great news in the high summer season and with my lovely bassin inviting me into the water!

Pin cushion

Yesterday a total of 16 – or maybe 17 – attempts were made to inject into a vein. Now my arms show my war wounds. 

First the poor night staff shared a total of five attempts before succeeding in getting the required blood samples. Then a day nurse came to replace the original drip (as per usual the vein had collapsed). After two attempts she passed me to an older colleague, who entered with the confidence of years and departed, frustrated, referring me in to the chief nurse for the surgical and medical wards and apparently a whizzo with the needle. I had said, jokingly that each person could have two goes. So after her allotted quota she passed the buck, to the anaesthetists  

In the afternoon I found myself in the operations bloc, in the salle de réveille, waiting for an anaesthetist to fit me in between ops. 

Another nurse and anaesthetist each had two bashes, the latter using an eco graph machine to track down my tiny, errant veins. I then had to wait for over two hours for the anaesthetist to return. 

Apart from it being chilly, this turned out quite entertaining as I watched people arrive to be injected on the way to the operation rooms, and return later comatose and often confused. I was impressed at the busy team work going on as nurses bustled about their business but finding time to reassure or inform anxious patients. 

Nobody could reassure the big macho man, here, I suspect, for repair to a damaged hand after a car (rally?) accident. It turned out that his interrogation of various nurses was because he was terrified of needles! I felt like suggesting he changed places with me. 

Eventually Michel, the anaesthetist, returned for further attempts. He showed me the arteries and veins on the echography and the different way they behaved when pressed. After first mistakenly getting an artery, which was right next to the vein, finally success! He shook my hand and said, see you in August. 

Back on the first floor (surgical) a crowd of nurses greeted me.  My veins had become a topic of much discussion, with nursing staff visibly relieved that from now on it was up to the anaesthetists to meet the challenge  they present.

Now it is lunchtime (for others) the following day and, cross fingers, the drip is still providing me with my nourishment – water.

Back in hospital

Can’t belief this: the saga of my innards continues. I’m back in the Clinique St Louis in Ganges.

On Monday evening I felt increasingly unwell, phoned my doctor, who suggested adding Gaviscon to the cocktail to calm my stomach.  All to no avail. I hesitated about ringing the emergency number again as this time I was unwell rather than in the extreme pain I had the last time. Then I was very sick – I reckon a litre. I rang number 15 and the doctor in Nîmes said he was sending for an ambulance.

Again i was not particularly impressed by the night service in Urgences (A&E) in Ganges.  It was a long night, improved somewhat by chatting with my room companion, a gardener brought in with multiple wasp stings on his face. He was employed by a firm producing products for homeopathic medicine and huiles essentielles and was passionate about his work.

At last I was given the verdict on the scan – a blockage in the digestive I system – and the less welcome news that the first step was –  once again- to insert a stomach pump through the nose. It was more painful than usual and I got the impression that they were not sure the pipe was exactly where it should be!

Next stop: a trip to the salle de réveil, where, surrounded by patients going into and back from surgery, the pipe was adjusted. And Dr Glaise, the surgeon came to see me between operations.  She confirmed that she thought the problem was the hernia (which had been known about but the decision had been to do nothing unless there was a crisis  or I was already being operated on for the ulcer).

She pushed the hernia back! But I still don’t know what decision has been reached about dealing with it. What’s more,  Dr Glaise told me she is stopping work at the end of August as she is expecting her first child. That puts some urgency on decision making if i do need an op, as I have a lot of confidence in her.

So now I’m back on the familiar first floor and have already seen some familiar faces. And come up with some familiar problems. Apart from the horrible stomach pump, it took three nurses and five attempts to find a vein to take blood samples. Plus the drip catheter is about to pack up, so I could well be seeing an anaesthetist next time in the hunt for a vein. Meanwhile I await Dr Glaise’s ‘ward round’ (except here there are no wards! I’m in a small but adequate single room)

As usual my friend Margaret has been sterling, collecting Poppy from an empty house in the morning, tracking down essential things I need here (like my iPad!) and bringing them here.