Tag: expat in France

Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 1

The Barefoot Blogger is going to step out of her carefree expat role to talk about something that is critically important to me at this moment: Healthcare.

As I type with one finger of my left hand, I am lying in a bed in a rehabilitation hospital outside Nimes, France.

I’ve been hospitalized in the French healthcare system now since September 18, the date I fell crossing the street while co-leading a ladies’ tour with my good friend, author Patricia Sands.

A unique perspective on my French vs. USA healthcare from one who has experienced a similar orthopedic injury and treatment in both countries.

I wrote about the accident in a previous post. I knew I’d be writing an “inside story” about my experience with the French medical system as an American expat.

Telling the story now, prior to the upcoming election in the US, seems the perfect time.

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

My accident occurred in Aigues-Mortes, a historic walled city in the south of France, on Tuesday afternoon, September 18.

After my fall I was taken by ambulance to the hospital of my choice, Centre Hospitalizer Universitaire Carémeau, in Nimes. A hospital in Montpelier was a nearby alternative, but Nîmes was closer to my home in Uzès. Both are university hospitals with excellent  reputations.

The ambulance ride to the hospital in Nimes was traumatic, just as you’d expect. The heat, the pain and my anxiety were all at play. Fortunately, the hospital was less than an hour away.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was asked a few questions, fortunately by someone who spoke English. Simple things like my full name, where I lived and did I have allergies. No one asked for my passport, for any type of formal identification, or for proof of medical insurance.

The admissions process, emergency room examination, X-rays and placement in a semi-private room took about 3 hours.

A longtime friend who was on the ladies’ tour was allowed to accompany me through each stage of the process. “To hold my hand.” The hospital staff quickly knew neither of us spoke French.

French Healthcare: Surgery

The hospital I was taken to in Nimes after the accident is a university hospital. They have a large, active emergency care unit. Since my situation was far from life-threatening, my surgery was not performed immediately. It was more like 36 hours later.

Meanwhile, I was in a semi-private room with a patient who was awaiting her second knee operation. Not because of my room nor roommate, but I was pretty miserable. No morphine or heavy pain killers were given to me prior to surgery. I was told morphine was not allowed because of its adverse affects on anesthetics administered during surgery.

I remember how relieved I was when the mask went on my face at the beginning of surgery. I knew when I woke up I would be in la la land.

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

I had no idea where I was when I awoke from surgery. No one spoke English. All I remember is that I was moved around a bit, probably from on level of surgery aftercare to another.

Fortunately I was cognizant that I was in France, that I was alive, and that I wanted to move to my room as quickly as possible so people would let me be. So I said “c’est bien” anytime I was asked a question. No telling what I was agreeing to.

For ten days I occupied a hospital bed in a large double room with a dear French woman who became my new best friend, Chantal. She spoke not a word of English. Nevertheless, we carried on a daily ritual something like this:

Bonjour, Deborah,” she said each morning. “Comment allez vous?” she’d ask.

Bonjour, Chantal,” I’d respond. “Ça va bien, “ I’d answer. Then “ Comment allez vous?”

The simple question\answer exercise would continue through the day — every day — ending with our shared “Bonne nuit.”

My French healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

My daily care during the ten days in the hospital (“hopital” in French) was extraordinarily good. Except for the bad food and occasional curt response from a nurse or “ colleague,” presumedly because my French was unintelligible, I was treated well. There was a time or two when I was left too long on a bedpan, but the small things could be overlooked when I considered my every physical need was being tended 24/7.

My French healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

Sometime before the end of my ten days in the hospital in Nimes, I learned I was being transferred for physical rehabilitation to a hospital in a small town outside Nimes. I was not going to the rehab hospital in Uzès as I’d expected. It was fully occupied. For the first time since the ordeal started, I cried. In fact, I boo-hooed.

The idea that I was going to some unknown village where no one would speak English was terrifying. Thoughts of Jane Eyre came to my mind. I envisioned being cast away behind stone walls where I would be starved and mistreated. What had I done to deserve such a fate?

When I came to my senses, I realized I could find out about the strange new place by simply searching the Internet. There I discovered I was headed for a brand new hospital, built in 2016, with a sterling reputation for orthopedic rehabilitation. Case closed. I was content with my fate.

My French healthcare

(Upper left) Nurse and English-speaking Doctor (Upper right) Rehab hospital outside Nimes (Lower left) My physical therapist, Clement, also English/speaking (Lower right) Me in motion

French Healthcare: Cost

It’s day 40 since I have been hospitalized in France due to a hip and shoulder fracture. Except for a bill for the ambulance that transferred me from the Nimes hospital to the rehab hospital outside Nimes, and a bill for compression stockings, I have not been asked to pay for anything.

The costs for the items above were 76 euros ($86.83) and 56 euros ($63.98) respectively. I paid those bills by check. I will be reimbursed by the travel insurance company when I file a claim.

For time spent in the rehab hospital, I will receive a bill when I leave. A friend who inquired about payment for the rehab hospital was told it will cost 197 euros per day ($224). Included in the cost is physical therapy: 1 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

News flash: I have heard I won’t be billed for my time at the hospital in Nimes. Not for the surgery nor the 10 days as an inpatient.

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

Tomorrow I am moving to the rehab hospital in Uzès. My doctor here pulled a few strings to have me transferred. Perhaps she did it because she thought it would be good for me to be closer to home and to my friends. Or, she might have wanted to get rid of me. Draw your own conclusion. Either way, I’m “outta here.”

The plan is for me to stay in Uzès until November 6 when I’ll be taken by ambulance to the hospital in Nimes. If all checks out and my bones are healed, I’ll spend the next 3 to 4 weeks in the Uzès rehab hospital and begin weight-bearing exercises to regain my mobility.

When the doctor releases me, I’ll be able to return to independent living and out-patient rehab.

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..


French Healthcare for Expats?


Going, Going to France

Today started out early for me … like 5:30am to put together the last bit of packing. 

Admittedly, I’m not the best at packing light. Visits back and forth to France include shipping a few boxes by Fedex. It’s down to three 16″x20″ cartons each way. 

My travel luggage is pretty reasonably sized. Except for the fact I chose a large handbag as a carry-on instead of a small suitcase and purse. Of course, by the time I lugged it on my shoulder it through check-in, I realized it was too heavy. So now I have a new traveling companion: a wheeled cart from Brookstone. 


No cost savings here, but it is light, easy to roll, and it folds down easily. So far so good. 

 While putting the buldging boxes together last night with packing tape, my son commented I had bought the wrong boxes. “Heavyweight,” he said. 

“Just wrap them with extra plastic wrap,” I said, undaunted. “If they’re dropped, they’ll bounce.  


On the ride to the airport this morning, in the backseat with my fourteen month old grandson who was strapped into the car seat, we held hands all the way . 

Those little hands will be a bit larger the next time we meet.

There were sad goodbyes to Bentley and Maddy, too. I’ll miss our walks along the wooded trails in the neighborhood. 


Cutting up with seat mates

Judging from the travelers who I sat beside on the two legs of the U.S. Journey, this is going to be an interesting trip: a master craftsman of knives, and a nanny for a high-powered family in DC. 

The blade smith, Wally Hayes, sells “folders,” swords and the like to Saudi kings and American rock stars. After mentioning “folder” several times, I finally asked what he meant. A folder is a folding knife, not a marketing brochure as I thought. Duh…

The nanny told me of her glamourous life in DC, meeting Presidents and dignitaries. Vacations with the family are to exotic places all over the world. 

I may have stumbled upon a new career!

Now, so that I can post this before leaving the States, I’ll say: stay tuned. Iceland and landing in Paris next! 


Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and New Chaussures

Les Halles de Lyon

Day Two in Lyon was a rainy day so a perfect time to do some shopping. Not that I need an excuse to shop! First stop was the city market in Lyon , known as “Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse.”

Les Halles de Lyon

The outside of the building is less than thrilling; the 50 or more merchants inside, however, make it colorful and more upscale than most city markets I’ve seen. Perhaps it’s Lyon’s reputation as a “foody” town that makes the presentation of meat, poultry and regional items look so interesting.

Les Halles de Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

Some things French will never be appetizing to me…like lapin (rabbit). I guess my boys raised too many cute bunny rabbits for me to detach myself from serving them as a meal.


Les Halles de Lyon


Many of the “innards” served in bouchon cafés were displayed in the meat cases. Fortunately I ate them before I saw them.

Les Halles de Lyon

Next Stop: New Chausseurs

Afternoon on the rainy day was spent where so many others decided to go, too — the shopping mall. Like its counterpart in the US! The mall in Lyon is big, multi-leveled and modern. Santa displays and other “Joyeous Noel” decorations were everywhere. Stores with French and American national brands were intermixed with movie theaters and eateries. If people around me weren’t speaking French, I might have been in any large city in the world.

My mission for the mall was to buy shoes (chaussures) for Nepal. After a day and a half following my six and a half foot son (2 meters) around Lyon, I knew I needed some help for hiking in Nepal.

By the way, in case you’re wondering about the physical training plan? Let’s just say I’m walking at least five miles a day…with lots of the trekking up hills. I had no idea that everywhere we’d go in Lyon would be up or down a hill. Hopefully the walking is helping to offset the wine and rich food diet

Finding hiking shoes in the big mall was no problem. Finding them to fit my size foot, stuffed with the recommended two pairs of socks, was an ordeal. Mon Fils suggested I try a men’s size shoe. Setting aside my female pride, I tried and bought a pair of Merrill’s men’s hiking shoes. Really? Who cares!

Happy Feet

Les Halles de Lyon

More about Lyon

What Does a Southern Gal Think of Lyon? “Hog Heaven!”

Lyon’s Musee des Beaux Arts: “The Most Elegant Woman in Paris”

Lyon: A Feast For the Eyes

Les Halles de Lyon

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