We had another medical issue to deal with this week. My husband practices karate and has found a group here in Bordeaux that teaches the same type he does in Birmingham. You probably can tell already this medical issue will not be the common cold that can find a remedy at your local pharmacy. He came home the other night after karate and I was already asleep (I don’t know how the Europeans stay up until 11 and eat dinner at 8). He woke me up to have me check his toe. It was at a goofy angle and he was limping. There wasn’t much swelling but it was hurting. He said it had made quite a loud crack when he was kicking someone and now it just hurt.
Having broken my toe and my foot several times, I told him it was no big deal and there wasn’t anything he could do for it. Breaking toes is seriously more annoying than anything else. You can still move around but it really hurts if you put your weight on that one spot. But if you an avoid the toe/part of foot, you’re okay. The last time I broke my foot I was mowing the lawn. I feel like I need to explain a little before going back to my husband’s toe. We live on a huge hill in Birmingham. Everyone does. There is this lump of iron ore called Red Mountain and we all live on some part of its sloping sides. Some live on more extreme than angles than others. My front yard (all 1000 square feet of it) happens to be one of those more extreme angle. I was traversing the side of the hill with the mower and my right foot which was on the downhill side just rolled over my Tevas and snapped. I knew it was broken which meant weeks of inactivity and pain. So I x finished mowing the lawn (of course), threw away those shoes (because it was their fault), and went inside to lament my fate.
My husband was a bit surprised at my cavalier attitude about breaking my foot. I knew there was nothing they could do for it but I started feeling guilty about not going to the doctor. So I went and had it x-rayed. It of course was broken and the doctor thought it looked pretty bad so he requested I see an orthopedic surgeon which I did against my better judgement. Long story short, the orthopedic surgeon told me I need a foot brace and crutches however, he noted, neither would do much since the damage was already done. He said come back in 12 weeks to see if we would need to re-break it to properly fix it. I accepted the crutches but did not return in 12 weeks. The whole incident did finally prompt my to hire someone to mow our lawn and now I just smile at the beauty I see through kitchen window after the crew has been there.
My husband will not be throwing his karate gear into the trash and moving on to something more peaceful like Tai Chi so he decided to go see a doctor. I emailed my French colleagues to ask how one goes about getting an x-ray. We also consulted the paperwork we had received from the EURAXS group on English speaking physicians. It turns out you can go online and just book an appointment with an available primary care doctor. The French let me know it would be more expensive to do it that way since we don’t have French health insurance so my husband set off with pocket load of cash and hoped for the best. He saw the primary care doctor, was referred out for and x ray in another location, and went to the pharmacy to pick up his medications for under 60 euros and in less than 2.5 hours. Can you believe it? The first urgent care appointment alone for my broken foot cost me 100 dollars and 2 hours. After all of my appointments were complete and I paid for crutches, I was out $250 for my broken foot and I have great health insurance in the US. Oh and by the way, they sent me home with Vicodin or some other narcotic pain killer that I never got filled. My husband got topical ibuprofen, arnica, and acetaminophen. Even though these things are available over the counter, the doctor still wrote out a prescription for him to take to the pharmacy and the pharmacist gave my husband instructions on how to use the medications. What a concept!
We were talking about the process after the whole ordeal was complete and he was assured his toe would not have to be rebroken or set or anything crazy like that. He was commenting on how cheap the appointment, x-ray and medications were and it got me thinking. There are things in France that are more expensive than what we would pay in the States (certainly soda and water come to mind). But there are other things that are substantially cheaper because of the governmental contributions to certain programs and services. The French heavily subsidize health care, the rail system, the communication infrastructure (internet is only 10 euros a month and my cell phone bill is only 20 euros a month with no contract), and education. We have the freedom to make choices with our money in the States. We are given more money in our paychecks (rather than paying heavy taxes) and can chose to save it for a rainy day when we have broken bones or spend it on a big screen TV. We fiercely value that ability to make a choice. In general, we don’t like to put the government in charge of our personal money. I do understand that. However, taxation has its benefits. So the debate will have to rage on.....taxation vs liberty. Isn’t that exactly what drove Americans to create a nation in the first place?