Apr 9, 2015

The Worst Spot in Paris: Philou


In every city, there are plenty of places where you'd rather not spend much time. But there's always one you'd rather never, ever see: the inside of the children's emergency room. And yet, like most parents at one time or another, I find myself there with one of my children.

Luckily, it's a light enough emergency that none of us will be wringing our hands -- especially not Pippa herself, since it's her hand that's injured. None of you who have ever done -- or seen -- gymnastics will be surprised that she got it training in the gym.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not a horrible one, though the timing sure stinks: she was feeling completely fired up about making it to the Zone competition (passing through Paris as champions, and squeaking by Regionals at 4th place to advance to Zone) and was, for the first time this year, actually looking forward to competing her beam routine (she's been killing it in practice). All was well until she fell forwards yesterday afternoon after landing a new trick -- a forward layout (a front flip in stretched-out position) -- and heard, and felt, her thumb go "crack!"

We head straight to Necker, the Children's Hospital of Paris, a place I've happily avoided for the past few years. Arriving just after 6pm, I am warned that there's only one orthopedic doctor on duty and that it will be a while. Naturally, we had intended to go straight home for dinner, so I have no books, no games, no snacks, and not even an iPhone (I still have a dumb old flip phone) or iPad. The hospital cafeteria is closed, and there is no food to be had.

We are there around three hours, waiting, bored, and hungry. No matter how many times or who I ask, I cannot get ice for Pippa's thumb, which is swelling before our eyes. It appears they simply do not have or provide ice in this hospital. I end up buying a cold can of orange juice from the vending machine so she can cool off her hand. The bonus is she has something to drink once the cold wears off. During that time, we see a doctor, get an X-ray.

We get there by metro, since Pippa's legs are working just fine, and it's a quick ride, but while we are there, two older girls from the same gym -- also elite competitors who are supposed to be at their own Zone meet this weekend -- arrive in the same ambulance having injured a knee and a shin doing the same trick (a layout flip with a twist and a half) five minutes apart from each other. Not such a good day for their gym, or their elite teams.

Finally around 9:45pm, we are called in to the "Salle de Plâtre" ("the Plaster Room") to get the results from the doctor. Naturally, this is the exact moment at which he is called in for emergency surgery, and we are told it will be at least two or more hours, and that we will be waiting in this tiny room till sometime well after midnight. Since our emergency is a mobile kind, we sign ourselves out with the X-rays and go home for a good night sleep.

We can't get an appointment with any orthopedic doctors in Paris today, because they're all full, so we head back to the emergency room around 10:30 this morning to get the results of the X-ray interpreted for us. Using last night as our guide, we go stocked with a fully-charged iPad, two books (one for each of us), an enormous picnic lunch, ice packs, and Easter chocolates. Of course, there is nobody in the waiting room, there are plenty of doctors on duty, and we are called in and seen within three minutes of arriving -- no exaggeration.

The diagnosis is that the thumb is not broken, but it's clearly damaged in some way -- twisted? jammed? torn ligaments? -- and so it's splinted up for the next few weeks. She's quite disappointed to be unable to compete, but she's got a pretty cheery attitude, all things considered (meanwhile, I'm gutted for her, but am trying not to bring her down. And I do realize this is just a small competition. It makes me ache for athletes who injure themselves right before they would have competed at the Olympics, and this is not a hypothetical statement; a British ski-cross acquaintance of mine did just that). In fact, Pippa is home today from school because of running back to Necker and needing to ice constantly, and is spending all her free time on her new practice beam, doing all the tricks that don't require hands. She is thrilled that she will be allowed to walk around the competition with her team and cheer them on. I think her coping skills may be better than my own.


The bright, shining spot in the Necker experience, however, is the bill. It's a little higher than it should be, because we have to pay for the second day, consultation, and treatment separately. That costs us an extra 50€ or so, which I am perfectly happy to pay as the cost of going home and getting her a good night sleep. I first spy the cost written in French francs (which, while it doesn't exist as a currency in use is still legally required to be on all receipts): 1123.26 FRF. Then I see the Euro cost: 171.24€. The sad thing is that $1123.26 on an American hospital bill wouldn't shock me at all.

So, at least the worst spot in Paris doesn't cost an arm and a leg -- though there's a good chance your child will leave there with something wrong with her arm or her leg.


Philou is a raw goats' milk cheese, and if you were wondering about that, all you need to do is check out the picture on the tag at the store. Definitely goat. This is not to be confused with Filou (pronounced exactly the same), which is a cows' milk cheese with an ashed layer, in the style of a Morbier.

No, this Philou comes from Deux-Sèvres, in Poitou-Charente which is, as far as I'm concerned, the home to one perfect goat cheese after another. It's clearly my favorite cheese region of France, and the Philou does not disappoint. It's creamy and thick, salty and herbal, and all the things a perfect goat cheese should be.


Puffy and blackish (and even photographed on a black-and-blue plate), this cute little multi-colored cheese reminds me of Pippa's cute little discolored thumb. Also, coincidentally, this cheese is made in Deux-Sèvres, and the metro stop we use for Necker when we go directly from the gym is Sèvres-Lecourbes.  


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