Blog

Operation date fixed

On Monday I saw the gastroenterologist, Dr Vandome, and yesterday I had an appointment with an anaesthetist before seeing Dr Glaise, the surgeon, again.

This was my first meeting with Dr Vandome, who is serious but very nice. She told me that the scan report after my duodenal ulcer crisis showed that after the ulcer perforated (with that still very memorable agonising pain), a bit of intestine had floated up and blocked the hole. This was what had saved me from immediate emergency surgery, and allowed the less dramatic slow healing of the hole.  Dr Vandome will undertake the colonoscopy and endoscopy, which will be done under general anaesthetic on 31st August. Obviously subsequent surgery will depend on the results of these tests.

Yesterday’s meeting with the anaesthetist was a brief, relaxed affair. Then on to the lovely Dr Glaise, and we had moved on from discussions about the ulcer to the planning for the hernia operation.  in French the term éventration is used – I think – to describe a hernia caused by previous trauma or surgery. In this case, said Dr Glaise, the cause was the operation and radiotherapy for my cancer in 2025.

She checked with the radio therapists and told me it was a large éventration which would require the biggest size of patch, or prosthesis . She showed me an example of the simple but high tech patch that would be inserted, after the intestine had been pushed back and the surrounding sac removed, to block the hole in the muscle wall.

I don’t know how much she was covering herself for unforeseen complications or how much there was a risk these might exist, but she said that she would not know exactly what she was dealing with before the actual op. The worst case scenarios seems to be adhesions, or bits of intestine stuck together, in which case she would only be putting in a temporary patch (presumably because further surgery would be needed).  Suddenly it all sounded a bit scary, though I continue to have confidence in Dr Glaise .

The operation will be on 11 September, to give time to recover from the anaesthetic at the end of August, and to fit in an appointment with the heavily booked cardiologist, on 7th September.

After a few days at the Clinique in Ganges I would have to transfer to the Chataigniers for recovery. Dr Glaise stressed how crucial it was not to put any strain on the stomach in the months following the surgery and broke the news I would have to continue wearing the dreaded corset day and night for six months.

Goodbye plans to travel this autumn.

 

 

Family arrives

After that enticing bout of rain, we were back to hot humid weather. Then yesterday this came to an end with more thunder and rain. The temperature dropped to the upper 20s. Quite chilly!

Jude and family arrived to this new fresh but cloudy scene, bronzed from their activity-charged stay on the Île de Rey. Ella and Maddie plunged straight into holiday mode: passionate greetings with Poppy, some intensive sessions on the double swing, and then a swim. Maddie has developed a powerful if idiosyncratic doggy paddle since last year, while Ella can do a superb, stylish crawl.

Lovely to have Ed in charge of the kitchen again. And after supper I was introduced to a new, really good card game, based on monopoly, but more skilful.

Rain!

OK, it only lasted for about 20 minutes.  But what sheer bliss to stand under this sudden, violent downpour. Then sadly, the rolls of thunder moved onwards and the rain slackened and stopped.

The rain has – hopefully – brought to an end one of the most uncomfortable ten days of my life.  I’m used to heat; we have it every summer here and I have memories of writing school reports in Nigeria, wrapped in towels so I would not drip onto the reports.

But this has been the most overwhelming heat I have ever known. If you didn’t get things done before midday, then forget it.  The afternoons and evenings have been relentless furnaces, with temperatures topping 40 degrees and accompanied by a cruel, stormy heaviness. Everybody has been overcome, locals and incomers alike. Yesterday I bumped into a market stall holder I know and he said all they were doing was existing – putting up the stall, taking it down, going home and collapsing.

I have been struggling with the additional burden of compression stockings and corset, a bit like being dressed for winter in a sauna. I wander round the house, sweating, unable to settle to do anything, looking for just one corner of the house that is is not stifling. Yesterday I actually felt ill, and wondered how many more days I could last this.

Because of my hospital stay and then the corset I have not had a shower since 17th July! The result is that I now have problems with the skin under the  corset.  A nurse comes once a day to wash the skin and treat the angry red patches – I have to have no infections by the end of the month if the op is to go ahead. The four nurses come in rota and are all exceptionally nice. Today Jessica laughed sympathetically when I said that that brief period when she undid the corset and washed my skin was one of the highlights of my day.

Today Odile helped me set up, rather belatedly, a sprinkler system for the flower bed in front of the garden.  We got it working just as rolls of thunder announced a possible storm. Usually the storm clouds are just there to tantalise us, and to make the air even more oppressive.  But this time, magic. Suddenly there was hail, turning quickly to fierce rain.

The temperature dropped down to an acceptable 30 degrees.  The weather forecast from now on looks like more hot days followed by thunderstorms, and not returning to the unforgiving 40 degrees.

 

 

 

Hot!

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.