Monday, 23 September 2013

French Hospitals, Sugar Tests and One Naughty Mummy

I am usually the biggest trumpeter of the French healthcare system – and still am in many ways.  Easy access to doctors and specialists, private rooms as standard in most hospitals.  Yes, we have to pay a small amount of medical insurance, but in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the negatives.  In fact, I know several people who feel that their spouse would not have survived had they developed their life-threatening ailment (be it heart attack, stroke, cancer) in the UK. 

All this is anecdotal, of course. And I’d like to add that, despite stretched resources, I’ve had a lot of excellent treatment on the NHS too!

One thing some docs over here lack in buckets, however, is a bedside manner.  You are treated well, but you are not expected to question your treatment, what this or that test is for and what the outcome might be.  When I arrived – green and 20 weeks pregnant – in summer 2009, my first trip to the hospital bamboozled several docs and nurses – why?  Because I asked what my blood was being tested for and when I should receive the results...  Highly unusual!

Anyway, let me get on to the whole Gestational Diabetes saga.  I’ve been tested for this (it’s a standard test) in every pregnancy.  I’ve always come up as a bit on the high-side, but never developed the dreaded condition.

The test basically consists of fasting, taking a sugary drink (think a bottle of cough syrup without the medical taste – pure glycerine (nom nom)), having your blood tested before, one hour and then two hours after you’ve consumed said drink.  You emerge feeling shaky and sick, and the lab compiles a graph of how your body has dealt with this sugar hit.

Aside – why, oh WHY don’t they give us the choice of a choc bar, slab of cake – anything else with a high sugar content?  Why the drink??? WHYYYY!!??? Blergh.

In order to be tested, I needed to travel to a laboratoire – the nearest of which is 45 minutes away – and stay for two hours plus.  Add to this the fact that it is a ‘fasting’ test, so needs to be done in the morning, the fact that we have only one car and three small children to dispatch at the same time, and you will probably understand that it took me a while to get things organised.

In the end, I managed to get the test done at home.  The plus side?  It was easy.  The minus?  Instead of the usual sugary drink, I was treated to 75g of glucose powder that I had to mix with water and consume – lumps and all.

When my results came back (they are posted to you and to the prescribing doctor in France) the test the phlebotomist had taken an hour after my sugar dose was just above the “cut off” line on the little chart – it was positive.  Or was it?  Had the lumps affected it?  Had the fact that her timings were not “exact” and she took my blood a little early affected it?  Questions, questions!

In vain, I tried to contact my GP (on holiday) and specialist obstetrician (on holiday) (well, it was August).  So I waited...

A week or so later, an appointment arrived for a ‘diabetic information morning’ starting at 8.30am to about mid-day in early September.  I contacted the receptionist at the hospital, who told me that my blood test had only been “a little high” and so I didn’t have to do anything special in the meantime.  So I didn’t have Diabetes... right?  Well, to me that’s what it sounded like. They were being cautious (something I applaud) and wanted me to watch my sugar.

The more I found out about this information morning, the more I felt it just ‘wasn’t’ going to be any help. For a start, my French (despite my efforts) remains stubbornly mediocre.  Was I going to be subjecting myself to a morning of sitting in a hospital, being spoken to as part of a group, and not being able to ask anyone to slow down or repeat?

A bit naughty... but in the end, I didn’t go. However, I did get dietary advice and I’ve been a really good girl!  Surely that was enough, seeing as I didn’t quite hit the GD levels?

My original appointment was re-booked, but when the secretary to my specialist called to inform me of the new date, I explained my predicament.  My French was not up to the challenge, I had to take daughter/sons to school/crèche and couldn’t be in Limoges by 8.30am.  She agreed that it would be more sensible to book an appointment with a dietician locally, which I duly did... attended and got the advice (most of which Dr Google had already provided).

So when I went to my specialist appointment today (at 37 weeks and 3 days) I didn’t expect the frosty reception I got.  Apparently, my message about my cancellation hadn’t got through and I had missed 2 appointments according to my file.  Oh... the injustice!

The result?  I am now in hospital having my bloods monitored for 24 hours and just escaped having a smacked botty for being naughty.  Mind you, considering the size of my arse at the moment, it would probably have hurt them much more than me...

I feel terrible, because I’ve been fretting about this for weeks, phoning – even getting a translator to phone on my behalf – but was always told it was nothing much to worry about and that I just needed to amend my diet.

Suddenly I am BAD MUMMY NO.1 – or at least that’s the way it feels.

Yes, I am not blameless in this, but living a frantic life, being preggers and cooking and shopping for four other hungry mouths means that time is difficult to organise and very precious.

Missing my little ones – sleep well poppets. x

PS – I am convinced that these tests are going to show I don’t have the condition after all. My theory?  I am very small, and the delicious glucose lumps would have taken longer to hit my blood stream and be dealt with... we will see – more tomorrow you lucky readers!


Mandy said...

It's easy to forget that the paternalistic medical attitude was prevalent here in the UK. And not just with the medical profession. It's really only the last 20 years that have changed that and we question much more than we used to (and should question more!). Hope you are ok.

Gillian Harvey said...

Thanks Mandy - I think there's a lot to be said for both bedside manners... perhaps a middle ground!
Thanks for your comment x

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