January 20: The health service

Inside the door at the osteopath

Inside the door at the osteopath

I took this picture from inside the building, as I was leaving, where I now have a new osteopathe/kinesitherapeute to treat my knee. I am filled with hope. He is called Stephane, has curly blonde hair and a beard, wears funky fur-lined camel boots and, and his pad (Office? Surgery? Consulting room?) is painted in a sort of cool heritage-grey, with trendy floor lamps. We speak French, but he seems to like throwing in a bit of English. The first thing he said to me in thickly-accented English was, “I am not mad.” I didn’t argue, as I was lying on his table in my underwear and was at a disadvantage in that respect. I don’t know why he said that, exactly.

He was fiddling about with my heel, at one point, showing me how flexible it isn’t, and saying that needed work too, when there was a knock at the door. He left (left!!), saying it was his children. I could hear them discussing their grades in something (not good). Then Stephane came back. The Londoner in me thought, Rubbish! How dare you wander off and talk to your children while I am sitting here in my knickers worrying about my knee! How unprofessional can you possibly be? Call the Ethics Committee this instant!

But this is Nice. It’s different here. It’s not even as if I’m paying for Stephane’s expertise, as my Carte Vitale, along with our Mutuelle (insurance company), will reimburse us for most of the fees. The Carte Vitale looks like a credit card or gym membership card, but it’s WAY more valuable. It took Joel – official working French person – nearly a year to get his and, as little wifey, I got mine in his name. Every piece of official information, from your taxes to your health to your bank account, is contained on the Carte Vitale. If you go to a pharmacy with a prescription (as I did, for a dose of Vitamin D), they stick the Carte Vitale in a card-reader so that whatever the cost is, it’s either picked up by the State or will be reimbursed into your bank account. At the pharmacy, the sales person was mortified that their Carte Vitale reader wasn’t operating properly, and asked apologetically would I/could I possibly/perhaps/maybe pay for the Vitamin D myself? It cost less than 3 euros.

My knee doesn't stop me from cycling, so if I see a good sunset, I can bike along while watching the colours change.

My knee doesn’t stop me from cycling, so if I see a good sunset, I can bike along while watching the colours change.

When the doctor sent me to get x-rays of my knee, she gave me a prescription for x-rays. There are literally hundreds of Laboratoires d’Analyses in Nice, and you can choose where you want to go. Some do bloodwork, some do x-rays, some do echographies, some do god knows what. They are pretty slick, I have to say. And you don’t have to pay! At least, I haven’t had to pay so far. But you have to have your Carte Vitale with you, otherwise it ain’t cheap, and you won’t be reimbursed right into your bank account.

I damaged my knee slipping at a step class well over year ago, and I was a complete idiot not to have got it treated earlier. I assumed it would just get better, forgetting, perhaps, that I’m no longer young. I wasted time at what Stephane the osteophathe calls a “cabinet-usine”, a factory practice. It’s true, it was horrible. The doctor gave me a prescription for 10 sessions with a kinestherapeute, but didn’t recommend one, so I just went to one near the restaurant. There are thousands of them in Nice, masseurs with medical training, but they treat three clients an hour at the same time in different rooms. It really did feel like a factory, plus, after 10 sessions, my knee still felt not weak or fragile or unstable, but untrustworthy.

Joel could run anywhere these days. Here he is just about to start the 10km Prom Classic. He's signed up for a 10 MILE run in mid-Feb.

Joel could run anywhere these days. Here he is just about to start the 10km Prom Classic. He’s signed up for a 10 MILE run in mid-Feb.

I was prompted to go back to the doctor, Carte Vitale in hand, after Joel finished his second Prom Classic 10km run. He’s signed up and training for a 10 MILE(!) run on February 17. I won’t be ready to join him then, I don’t think, but there’s always that half-marathon he’s looking at in April… And if I don’t get a result from Stephane, I can always go back to the doctor and demand more treatment. That’s the good – and bad – thing about the health service here. They just keep on paying.

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About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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