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July 29th 2008 by Tina
Le Maillot Jaune

Posted under France

Back in Paris, we have acquired a traveling companion for the next few weeks – Aaron’s mom. She arrived in the morning with big smiles, big hugs and lots of presents! I felt awful that she would have to endure a bit of our stressful medical issues during her vacation but, at the same time, I was glad to have her with us.

We spent four nights in Paris during which I was in and out of commission as determined by my “ailment”. Together we visited the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre (one of my favorite places in the world), walked along the picturesque Seine and down the Champs-Elysees. Our pace was much slower than that of our trip to Paris during which we excitedly rushed around to see everything.

On Sunday, we arrived early at the Champs-Elysees, where we would camp out all day in the sun to mark our spot for the finish of the Tour de France. This was Aaron’s day and he was decked out in the Tour’s signature yellow for the occasion. We claimed a prime spot near the Arc de Triomphe next to a nice American family with whom we visited throughout the day. The hours passed surprisingly quickly and, as mid-afternoon approached, the crowds grew increasingly dense. When the caravan arrived, it was ten times as raucous and rowdy as it had been in Grenoble. By this time, we could no longer sit down but had to stand for the last several hours to maintain our front row spot.

The racers arrived over an hour past the printed schedule time but the crowd was immediately forgiving; it wailed in unison as the triumphant athletes performed eight laps around the Champs-Elysees. As Aaron explained, the winner of the race and le maillot jaune (the yellow jersey) had already essentially been decided in an earlier stage. The final laps around the Champs-Elysees were more like victory laps for the entire peloton.

From our prime position along the northern curb, the riders were within an arms length of us. In fact, we had to be careful when reaching our cameras over the barrier not to clothesline the outermost riders in the peloton. The scene was electrifying – a brilliant spectacle of bright colors and finely-chiseled bodies cheered by a madly roaring crowd. At the end of the day, we were utterly exhausted. We braved the crowded metro system back to Montmartre, picked up dinner on the street, and hibernated until morning.

On Monday morning, we were back at the hospital for another ultrasound followed by emergency surgery, though it was more of a scheduling emergency than a medical one, since we planned to depart from Paris on our road trip the next morning.

Having endured this surgical procedure twice now, once in Texas and now in Paris, has provided a basis for comparison between American medical and French medical care. While I would characterize my experience in the British-French hospital as adequate (and worlds above the standards in China and Nepal), I have a newfound appreciation for the American standard of service as applied to surgical care. Subtle differences in my Texas surgery, involving pre- and post-surgical service, made a big difference in the comfort and quality of my overall experience. I have heard and participated in discussions for years, usually around election time, about the need for American health care reform. While I cringe at the cost of prescription drugs and ever-increasing co-pays and the cost of medical care in general, I hope that whatever reforms are implemented in the coming years do not diminish the rigorous quality standards of American medical care.

My surgery had been completed by one p.m. but I was not discharged from the hospital until six. Aaron and Valerie had picked up the rental car that afternoon and Aaron drove us back to Montmartre. I had a box of painkillers and the reluctant blessing of my surgeon to travel the next morning if I was feeling up to it. Barring any obvious complications, I was quite certain that I would be.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Le Maillot Jaune”

  1. Andrew Leonard on 05 Aug 2008 at 10:29 am #

    Did you earn that yellow jersey?! 😉