SOS Doctors

SOS Doctors

There’s something about being away from home – engaging in unaccustomed activities, eating new foods, drinking different water, being susceptible to a place’s germs or insect bites…. Sooner or later minor emergencies happen, especially over a longer stay. Every year it’s something different – I guess we might as well expect that something will come along. We’ve been doing so well this year! Two whole weeks with no health problems after a couple of initial accidental encounters with gluten while undergoing the initial stress of jet lag.

But last night, I knew that I had a problem with my big toe on one foot. It hurt. I limped home and looked, and sure enough, it was red and swollen, and the nail looked bruised. I put triple antibiotic lotion on it and a Bandaid, and went to sleep hoping that by this morning, it would look much better.

But it didn’t.

In fact, it looked really ugly. I knew I’d better get it attended to, so it wouldn’t get worse.
Fortunately, we have learned that Paris has good options for quick doctor appointments for people who aren’t at home and don’t have a personal physician. It’s called SOS Doctors, and if you look it up online, you will find a French phone number to call to make a house visit appointment. There are tens of thousands of English speaking residents in Paris, and thousands more English speaking visitors in Paris at any time of year, so the receptionist and the doctors speak a little English. You call the number and get a live person who asks where you are staying and gets all the information necessary to access you at that place. Then they ask what you are experiencing, and if that sounds like a doctor is needed, they dispatch a mobile doctor who arrives at your hotel or apartment with a large bag of medical supplies and equipment.

In Paris, if you have a health-related question, you can also go to the nearest pharmacy and show/ tell the pharmacist what you are concerned about. The pharmacists know all the nearby doctors, or they may tell you to call SOS Doctors – or if the ailment is not likely to require imaging or prescription medication, they will tell you how to treat it and sell you the appropriate remedies.

My toe definitely looked infected, and it hurt to put on a shoe and walk, so I figured it would probably require a prescription for antibiotics and just called the SOS Doctors number.
A half hour or so later, our apartment doorbell rang, and we opened to greet the doctor. Other Parisian doctors we’ve experienced have carried traditional doctor bags. In contrast, this one – up to the minute – had a carry-on spinner suitcase that he could wheel along.

The doctors who sign on for this kind of practice have offices in the neighborhood, but they also like the variety of different people and languages and situations and buildings, and they are very good at on the spot diagnosis without fancy equipment. European medical schools still teach what is called “Physical Diagnosis” which is the art of direct physical observation and case taking to arrove at a reliable diagnosis. I’m sure that most situations for which calls are made are actually reasonably minor – ours over the years have been potentially serious situations in preliminary stages that are likely to respond to antibiotic prescriptions – things like pneumonia, bronchitis, and now this infected toenail.

This situation on the surface seems so minor as to be embarrassing to ask about. But, indeed, the doctor cautioned me about staying off the foot (Drat!!!) and prescribed several medications to abort the infection, saying that if it doesn’t heal promptly, I will have no choice but to go to a hospital and have it operated on. Yikes!!

It helps to have a traveling companion – odds are that when one is laid low, the other can still go out and get food and medications. I was very grateful that Nancy could do those things. I’m now doing as told – staying off the foot and taking medicine (and, of course, praying and using homeopathic remedies.. it never hurts to do everything possible.). I envision the infection starting to look much better tomorrow or the next day, so that at least I will get back home with no surgery having been performed.

In any case, I’m really glad that we learned about SOS Doctors on our first stay in Paris. It’s a piece of knowledge that has come in handy often enough that it’s worth sharing.

Also worth knowing: If you have a real life or death emergency in Paris, or most places in Europe, the number to call is 112. This is the European equivalent to the American 911.

About Rev. Rosemary Hyde, Ph.D.

I am a grandmother, a classical homeopath, a mystical poet, and an interfaith minister. I also have a large, enduring place in my heart for Paris. I first spent time in Paris in 1961, as a Fulbright scholar. I remained in France for three years, living also in Toulouse and in Nancy. I have revisited France and Paris multiple times since then, and have come to know central Paris reasonably well. I grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where there were many Franco-Americans, and their language fascinated me. I was fortunate in 6th grade, when my family moved, to find myself in a Catholic French speaking girls' school, where I had the wonderful fortune of becoming bilingual. It still feeds my soul deeply, to visit Paris, speak French, and reconnect with the little French girl in me. I am serving presently as co-minister at Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill, NC. I give talks one or two Sundays a month -- please go to the website, www.unitychapelhill.org, and sign up for the weekly e-news to learn what's going on -- special events, seasonal interfaith ceremonies, and Sunday themes and talks. My vision for the Unity Chapel Hill ministry and for myself is to become a loving, uniting presence in the lives of all those who cross paths with us. That's all there is, really -- loving presence. And so it is. Amen. My goal as a minister is to add richness to life for those who resonate to more than one religious tradition or to none -- those with mixed religions as well as the unchurched, untempled, and unmosqued. All of us, whatever our cultural allegiances, hunger for and need support in finding the transcendent joy that's ours to find in this earthly life. All of us need and want to celebrate beautifully the great and small milemarker moments. All of us crave the beauty of prayer as an expression of our participation in universal love. All of us wish to learn a greater vision, to see our lives opening to the Divine. All of us desire deeply to find serenity and peace that lasts no matter what happens today and tomorrow. This is the meaning of Transcendessence. We find the essence of spirit and transcend the narrow constraints of our bodies and egos. Join us today by subscribing, so you won't miss a single poem, message, prayer, or meditation.
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