SOS Médecins

Call the doctor: SOS Médecins

“I’ll be fine not having a doctor in France – I’m never ill,” I remember telling a colleague. Famous last words.

An ear infection caught me out on Monday. My left ear swelled up badly, turned bright red and was hot to the touch.

I went to 1 of the 73 pharmacists within a 5-minute walk of the flat. There, they recommended I go see SOS Médecins – an organisation that provides round-the-clock medical advice 7 days a week.

For a flat €25 fee, you get to see a doctor. I waited a full 5 minutes to be ushered into a consulting room.

The doctor listened carefully to my explanation of the problem, examined my ear and duly wrote me a prescription. They looked surprised to see me back at the pharmacy quite so quickly to collect the drops that would heal the infection.

So far, so good.

On Tuesday morning I took the Eurostar from Lille to London as usual. I could feel that the infection had spread to my mouth, leaving me a bit numb, but I didn’t worry too much – I was taking the drops that would clear it up.

At work I joked with the same colleague about the irony of needing a doctor in France after all. By mid-afternoon, her laughter had been replaced by a look of concern.

“What’s wrong with your face?” she asked.

I could close my left eye but it wouldn’t blink like my right one. The left-hand side of my forehead wouldn’t crease if I tried to raise my eyebrows and my smile was uneven.

“I’ll drop into a medical centre in the morning if I’m not feeling better,” I told her.

Back at my regular Airbnb that evening, I tried to sip a glass of wine and nearly spilled it down myself. My host eyed me closely.

“I’d like to take you to the hospital,” she said.

I dismissed the suggestion of going to hospital in a typically male, stuff-and-nonsense way – but she did eventually persuade me to call NHS Direct.

I explained what had happened to the doctor on the other end of the phone. He kept asking me about my speech, which even I could hear now sounded slurred.

“I’d like to send an ambulance for you,” he said. “You need to see someone within an hour.”


I refused – after all, genuinely sick people might need it – and my Airbnb host said she would take me instead. If you have never had the pleasure of an evening in Lewisham A&E, trust me, her offer was the very definition of kindness.

There, within 30 minutes, the doctor explained what was wrong.

“You have Bell’s Palsy.”

Now my condition had a name, and one I recognised. I remember a colleague had it a couple of years ago. He looked like he’d had a stroke. I didn’t – but I didn’t look right either.

“I dismissed the suggestion of going to hospital in a typically male, stuff-and-nonsense way”

The eye hospital in Sidcup was my first destination on Wednesday morning, then a chemist where my special drugs had been delivered overnight. Oh yes, this is serious stuff. (I also stopped off at a florist for a big bunch of flowers for my Airbnb host.)

Next week, I’ll go and see my GP in Brighton for a repeat prescription, assuming I still need the drugs.

Then, as soon as I have registered to pay tax in France, I’ll get a social security number here. Three months later, I’ll be able to register for a doctor.

Now I know I do need a doctor here in France after all. Even I get ill sometimes.

Photo © SOS Médecins (Well, you didn’t think I was going to post a photo of me with a wonky face, did you?)

This entry was published on Sat, 18 Nov 2017 at 08:25. It’s filed under Places and people and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

27 thoughts on “Call the doctor: SOS Médecins

  1. You are fortunate to live in an area where SOS Médecins operates — around here, it’s the local GP, who is so full he’s refusing new patients, or the hospital emergency 30 minutes away! Although it doesn’t sound like they did you much good. 😉 Wishing you a swift recovery!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Famous last words!!! But let’s hope you are on the mend and your…..handsome face returns asap!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My goodness how are you now?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh dear! Look after yourself well and do not take it too lightly please. A good friend had Bells Palsy and was left with a partially paralyzed left side of his face for several months.
    Hope you feel better very soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow – not good! I hope you’re feeling better soon. Please let us know how things go.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So, no wine then for a month?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yikes, that sounds nasty! Glad your Airbnb host convinced you to get it checked out. Hope you’re on the mend soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Best wishes for a full recovery. Take care, Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hope you recover soon. What a story. I too said im fine having no doctor, most things can be treated by going to pharmacy anyway. Well been sick for more than a month now and had to run to a GP whom i also tried to register as my primary doctor. I got better and then sick again and tried to get an appointment qith him, he said ive never registered and next appt available is 2 days away 🙂 not easy to see a doctor here! Thankfully i got better somehow. 💪

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh heavens! I only know one other person who had Bells Palsy and it is no laughing matter. Bravo your AirBnB hostess for taking you in hand and getting the help you needed. I am fortunate to have a Médecin Générale in the flat above who has insisted she will always help without me having to go to a surgery but your story does bring it home that life has a tendency to strike unexpectedly and that we should always be prepared. I wish you a continued, swift and total recovery and remain convinced that fine vintages will be part of that enhanced process 🍷 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Soft healing hugs Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Weak in the presence of: Moyet | A new life in Lille

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