I was on the phone with my daughter’s otorhinolaryngologist (her ORL, or ear-nose-throat doctor) when he called me a princess. “Ma petite princesse,” to be precise.
No one has ever called me that. Because I’m not. I drink tap water and take public transportation. When, upon occasion, my nails are done, I did them myself. I don’t even disturb doctors over common colds.
So last December, when Viv caught her first significant cold in Paris, I had her tough it out. It wasn’t until her fever stuck around and her head and ear began hurting that I took her to the pediatrician.
Viv had an otite séreuse – a middle ear infection. She took antibiotics for a week, recovered after a few days, and was back to normal.
But not so fast. I had to ask her to do things once, twice, … five times and in a raised voice before she would respond. She said “What? “ a lot and turned the volume way up on the iPad. At first I thought it was willful. Then I realized even she was getting frustrated. Something was still wrong.
She couldn’t hear in her right ear.
The pediatrician sent us to an ORL. A slim, charismatic man in his late 60s and a well-tailored grey suit, he looked in Viv’s ears, ran some electronic tests, squeaked her nose, and gave a preliminary diagnosis of “too much végétation” before scribbling out a prescription for a sinus x-ray.
The x-ray confirmed the overabundance of végétation (or adenoid), which blocked her Eustachian tubes causing both the infection and the hearing loss. The végétation simply had to be removed.
Adenoidectomy is a common outpatient procedure in France, our ORL said. He’d find a Friday spot to give Viv the weekend to recover. She’d just need some pre-work for the general anesthesia. And, with that, he opened his agenda to schedule the procedure.
That, presumably, is when I started to become a princess. Not loving the idea of general anesthesia, I asked if there were other treatment options. He looked up from his agenda to assess my seriousness, saw that I was, took a breath, and said that I could certainly explore different options with other ORLs but… Effectively, there were no other reasonable options.
He, being French, was surprised that I might second-guess his professional opinion. I, being American, wasn’t about to let a healthcare professional get in the way of my daughter’s well being. I didn’t schedule the surgery.
I consulted with our beloved American pediatrician back in Washington, DC. She judged the French ORL’s advice sound but, being American, humored me with some non-invasive, homeopathic, and ultimately ineffective treatments and exercises. I didn’t bother going to another ORL. Three months later, Viv and I were back in the ORL’s office scheduling her surgery.
Some days later, the ORL called me to suggest we set a follow-up appointment the week after the procedure. Obligingly, I started to rattle off some day/time options. That’s when he interrupted me with, “Ah, mais non ma petite princesse. C’est ma secrétaire avec qui vous pouvez prendre les rendez-vous.”
Oh. So I schedule surgeries with the ORL but ORL visits with his secretary. I bet real princesses already know that. I’m still in training.
The operation took 45 minutes and the recovery took a few weeks. Now, when Viv can’t hear me, it’s because she doesn’t want to. But it’ll take me a while longer to master how the French and their healthcare system work.
ALSO READ: the vital basics about the French Healthcare system.