Not too many people know this, but five years ago when we were conducting our first living-in-France experiment, Jeff and I decided we'd give parenthood a go. It was part biological clock, part romanticism; have you ever seen French children? They're the cutest things ever, AND they're well-behaved. I wanted to be part of that. Jeff ... well, not so much, but he agreed to give it a try. Close to the end of my first trimester, we decided to tell our families, and many joyous long-distance phone-calls were made. About a week later, I had a miscarriage. Big bummer.
I hadn't planned to go to the hospital--I thought it could wait 'til morning when I'd visit my private doc--but after describing the symptoms to my belle soeur Nathalie, who lives in Paris and is a medical professional, she suggested we meet at Hopital St. Antoine, a public hospital just two blocks from our place.
We three arrived at about 10 0'clock at night and went straight to the emergency room. There might have been one other person waiting there, but the doctors saw me almost immediately. After a thorough exam, they confirmed the bad news, and suggested I stay overnight. I told them I lived nearby and that I'd prefer to come back the next day. They said "pas de probleme" and made an appointment for me to return the following morning.
When I arrived, they ushered me into a private room, tucked me into bed, and gave me some medication and an IV. I was there for the better part of the day, and throughout my time there, someone or another would come in to make sure I was OK, bring me water, and generally extend a bit of kindness in my direction. After my experience at General Hospital in San Francisco the year before, my stay at Hopital St. Antoine seemed positively magical. When I checked out, they promised to send me a bill, but forewarned that because I didn't have insurance, it was going to be pretty expensive. Very, very expensive. They were sorry. I was worried. When the bill arrived two days later, I was indeed shocked at the amount: 88 Euro.
I don't know if the health care reform bill Obama just signed into law will translate into hospital bills that are truly affordable for Americans, but even if it's just a symbolic gesture to prove he's serious about making change while he's in office, it's a step in the right direction. Hopefully, though, neither I nor anyone reading this will have any reason to experience the newly revamped American medical system (or the old French one, for that matter) any time soon.