Oct 16, 2014

Patient Rights & Responsibilities: Pomerol

Anthony sees on his prescription that he is supposed to find a nurse to take out his stitches after a recent shoulder surgery for tendonitis. He gets a business card from the pharmacy downstairs of somebody who makes house calls in the neighborhood, phones her, and -- literally -- two minutes later, the doorbell rings. She plops her bag on our crumb-covered, slightly-sticky, unwashed-from-breakfast dining room table and gets to work. Don't worry: the huge chopping knife behind the water pitcher is not to be used for the procedure but, rather, is leftover from cutting fruit.
25€ and a few minutes later, Anthony's stitches are out, and he can submit the claim to our insurance for full reimbursement. I think his only regret is that she does not show up in a sexy French nurse outfit.
When I tell a French friend how remarkable I find this house call, she agrees: "I know! At our country home, it only costs 6€! But that's Paris for you..." Well, no, what I actually find remarkable is how cheap and efficient it is, but I suppose compared to 6€, it does rather seem we've been had. The nurse who took stitches out at my friend's country home had to drive over, and we're wondering how it's even possible at that price for her, the government, or anybody else for that matter to make any money. (And of course, here the knowledgeable person responds, "But that's because it's nationalized health care. The point is not to make money. The point is to keep the population healthy.")
Prescriptions can include not only house calls but also transportation: as in, "You'll be too tired/weak to walk -- even to the bus or metro -- so here's a prescription for reimbursement for a taxi." Nice. But they don't send you home as tired/weak as an American hospital would. When Anthony had very serious neck surgery (literally sawing off parts of his vertebrae) in the US, they sent him home after one night, at which point he fainted and basically went into shock in our bedroom while I was tucking in the girls. That was a fun moment. Here in France, for his shoulder surgery, which is serious enough but much more minor than the neck surgery by all accounts, he stays in the hospital for two days. He does not get wine with his meals, but I see on a brochure that you can sign up for it, depending on the reason for your visit. Even without wine, as surgeries go, he's pretty happy.

While the rights of a patient may be greater here, so are the responsibilities. What nearly kills me every time (but hopefully, not ever literally) is that before you go in for various procedures, they give you prescriptions for things like bandaging, disinfectants, even anesthesia, and you have to fill the prescription and bring it with you to the hospital. This has tripped me up more than once when I've gone in at the last minute -- because I am American and don't think to bring anesthesia to a doctor -- and the pharmacy does not have what I need. With enough footwork, you can usually solve that problem. And with enough time, you can always solve the problem, because pharmacies will order deliveries (usually next day, and sometimes even later the same day) of anything they don't have in stock.
An anesthesia prescription, for example, is often given in varying dosage options depending on weight, and the pharmacists (and doctors) count on you to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about your weight to get the correct dosage. They don't even double check by weighing you. I don't know what would happen if I showed up for a procedure without the required, correct dosage of anesthesia...and frankly, I don't want to find out.
Pomerol, also sometimes spelled Pommerol, is the name of a wine as well as a cheese. The wine, at least, comes from the town of Pomerol, in the department of la Gironde in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France. The cheese, not so logically, comes from the department of Corrèze in the region of Limousin, about 200 km to the east, or even Auvergne, another 150 km east beyond that.
It's a raw cows' milk cheese that is, essentially, a baby Cantal. It is made like a Cantal, another Auvergne cheese, though without having to adhere to Cantal's AOP restrictions. While a young Cantal is aged at least 30 days, a Pomerol doesn't even have to be aged that long. It's pressed and non-cooked but still manages to deliver a whopper of a colorfully moldy crust.
The taste is much as you would expect for a younger-than-young Cantal-like cheese: mountain tastes of grasses, sweet, and nutty, but very mild. It lacks the oomph and the tang of a Comté, a Parmesan, or even a great Cheddar. It also lacks the super-aged saltiness and the very-old-and-crumbly texture. It's a simple, mild, nice cows' cheese.


Frankly, Pomerol sounds like a drug I should buy at the drug store before I go in for surgery in France. Like a Demerol, I suppose, Pommerol might be a drug that serves as an anesthetizing agent. Or it might be one that disinfects. Or, best of all, it's a hunk of cheese that tastes delicious as you sit there half exposed in your robe and helps you forget about the fact that you're having a medical procedure done.


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