Friday, April 24, 2015

The Terrible Tour of Tours

In the deepest darkest days of winter, Jude and I made plans to visit Tours.  We needed somewhere to go and hopefully enjoy a little springtime warmth and sun in the process.  The Winter had been so dis-spiriting that we needed a little boost to our morale.

After nearly three months of being sick with various virus it felt like we were on the Other Side and getting better.  Little did we know that all was not entirely well.

Our Tour of Tours departure day dawned, well, cold and blustery.  We were determined to get Out of Dodge and so we headed out.

After our arrival in Tours we learned of my uncle's passing.  It'd been expected and it felt strange to be living a wonderful life even as family members were tending to the sick and dying.  There seemed nothing for it but to Keep Going and hope for the best.

We visited two chateaux, met an American couple, and had dinner with them after the tour.  The company was enjoyable and the conversation covered so many of the topics Jude and I are known to wallow in.  Namely, America's view of itself, it's politics, and all these things versus what the Rest of the World sees and does.

The following day we headed out to Amboise to meet a friend of Jude's over lunch.  Pauline is a rare gem of a person.  Though we wouldn't realize just how much of a gem she was until two days later.

Jude and I had a fabulous dinner at Laurenty on rue Colbert in Tours.  Pauline had recommended it and what a "find" it turned out to be.  Not Paris Expensive.  Not Paris Dreck-Tasting.  Just good solid beautifully prepared food for people who love to eat.

The following day was spent recuperating and relaxing around Tours.  That night around 02h00 Jude told me something wasn't right.  Her heart was racing and there seemed to be no way to settle it down.

I called the front desk to order a cab.  We were quickly on our way to Trousseau urgence (ER). In the door and to the first desk.  Hand over our papers to the nice lady behind the glass screen.  Typity type type type goes the keyboard.  Through the double doors we go and into urgence we head.  Leads are quickly applied and... well... yes... things don't look good.  BP 190+/100+ HR110+.  Crap.  We're in Deep Shit, if truth be known.

At one point Jude handed me her glasses and asked I hold onto them in the event they needed to cardio-vert her.  The docs tried several things, including a med that Jude reacted very badly to.  We told eachother how good life had been with one another.  I thought her Goose was Cooked.  But the docs had a short-acting strong relief med trick up their sleeves and they were able to get Jude's heart into a better place

After at least eight hours of waiting the much promised cardiologist failed to materialize.  I'd noticed that (some of) the staff were on greve (strike) and wondered if that included the heart doc.  Realizing Jude needed better attention, the urgence docs had Jude moved to Bretonneau which is the regional teaching hospital.

At 18h00 we demenager'd to Bretonnoeau by ambulance.  The Amazing Pauline had shown up around mid-day at Trousseau to help out and she followed us over by car.  She then took me back into Tours centrale to pick some of Jude's things up from the hotel, before returning to Bretonneau.

Mind you, this is a huge teaching facility.  The ground the buildings cover is vast.  Yes, it was a late Friday afternoon, but one would think the needed blood tests to rule out complications to a thyroid condition would be within easy reach to accomplish.  Nope.  It's the aforementioned Friday. The start of a weekend.  And not just any weekend.  It's a weekend where Parisians started their Spring Break two week vacation and many of the docs on staff and in training have already left.  Figure into the mix the Odd Fact that the teaching docs show up for work only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and, well, you can begin to see why not only was the blood lab closed, but that Jude saw a new intern with every shift change and there was no clearly articulated plan for her care.  Rather importantly, there was no way to determining if the thyroid was involved or not.  For three whole days!

Protocols were followed, however, and Jude was given another med to try and calm her heart.  Malheursement this failed as miserably as the first drug she was given at Trousseau.  Her BP and HR went through the roof.  For the second time in two days we were looking very seriously at a stroke inducing or heart attack situation.  We'd already said our "goodbyes" and set about trying to get Jude's condition back toward something resembling normal.

It's difficult to not be superstitious sometimes.  With things this screwed up and experiencing two very bad events is it any wonder I was hoping against hope that there wouldn't be a third episode?

Throughout Jude's stay, we were blessed by Pauline's Daily Presence.  She provided Vital Logistical Support, Amazing Translator, and Invaluable Moral Support.  Without her kind help we would've been Foreigners in a Foreign Land.

Finally, on Monday morning after the hospital's lab staff had returned from a no doubt richly deserved rest Jude's blood was drawn.  Alas, they'd not taken into account that many drugs are compounded with corn as a filler.  Jude is terribly allergic to corn and has been three months after the GMO version was introduced into the American food system.  This allergy now includes non-GMO food stuffs as well.  By 15h00 the test results were in.  The docs quickly realized what they were dealing with.

In a conversation with the evening nurse Jude shared her concern for the side-effects of corn on her system.  The nurse scurried away and came back 15 minutes later.  She had Good News.  The docs knew what to do and they had a plan (finally!).  The nurse had even better news.  She'd found a non-corn filled med.  If it worked, this was the Best News part, Jude would be jeter'd out of the hospital the next day (Tuesday).

Long story short, the med worked and we were able to pay the rather expensive bill to an astonished staff at la caisse and return by taxi to the hotel in downtown Tours.  We were now 9 days into a 5 day vacation.  We'd only spent three days actually vacationing.  Jude was very tired, though at first determined to return to Paris and home and hearth.  We quickly realized that it might be a nicer, gentler thing to do to stay the night in Tours.

We visited Pauline's recommended Laurenty restaurant one last time where we regaled the wait staff with details of Judes Terrible Tour of Tours.  Dinner was once again amazing.  It was made even more amazing by the fact that Jude was able, after all she'd been through, to sit across from me and smile.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sorry. Back on my High Horse.

"...Just last month, in the 31 days of March, police in the United States killed more people than the UK did in the entire 20th century. In fact, it was twice as many; police in the UK only killed 52 people during that 100 year period..."

It's reported that in China, at 4 and a half times the size of the US, police killed 12 people last year, and that the rate at which police in the US kill people is 70 times (!!!) higher than any first world country.

Are people in the US so different from people living in civilized countries that they deserve to die at the hands of those who are supposed to "protect and serve?"  What happened to the ideals of freedom and liberty?  Or are ideals things that only prior generations cared about?

What's happened to America?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rouen ~ the seat of Norman Kings

Former colleagues and family members sick with cancer are still circling the drain.  That is to say, they remain alive if not well.

Years ago Jude and I went to Vancouver, BC to visit with a Friend From England.  I swore I'd do my best to keep in contact and see folks I'd made friends with over the years.  This, after a different friend died of cancer at a terribly young age.  Both my deceased friend and our Friend From England were and are fellow motorcycle riders, motorheads, intellectual, and wonderful eccentrics.

On the trip to Vancouver a close friend of Jude's had died.  We stayed to see our Friend From England and did the best we could under the circumstances.  Jude's friend was already in the ground after we'd returned home.

So it was with not a little trepidation that we climbed aboard a regional train bound for Rouen.  We were off to see our Friends From England.  I hoped no one passed away while we were out of town.  The odds were stacked against us.

A first thing I noticed when we arrived is that some people are blatantly in-your-face-religious-Catholic.  Such as our taxi driver from la gare a l'hotel. After the staunchly secular Paris (where Catholics tend to be quite reserved, even as some other religious-types stir the waters vigorously), this came as quite a shock.  History is as alive as the people still living it.  Rouen has many hundreds of years of Catholic history.

Things turned instantly for the better at the sight of our Friends From England waiting for us in the bar.  They'd come over from Honfleur to spend the day with Jude and I.  Greetings heartily shared, everyone's well-being inquired after, and luggage safely stowed we set off in search of something to eat.

Jude descends from the Dukes of Normandy.  Rollo the Viking Warrior made Rouen the seat of power.  Like in much earlier times when medieval Provin was an Important Place, so too was medieval Rouen.  The city was at the epicenter of the 100 years war between les anglais et les francais.  It was here that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.  More recently the Nazis occupied the place and it, in part, took the English and Americans bombing the cathedral to drive the Germans out.

I don't know about anyone else, but I instantly fell in love with Rouen.  Half timbered buildings everywhere.  Ancient stone cathedrals in three places around town.  The place is lousy with warm, cozy eateries.

The four of us stumbled around a late winter deeply cold and drizzly wet town to check out as much as we could see in a day.  We had a cuppa, and ate two large feasts.  The wine and cidre weren't bad either.  Topped off with a wee-dram of Calvados, the local Fire Water, the day ended in Perfect Harmony and Contentment.

We received word that our Friends From England had successfully negotiated the trip back to Honfleur and were off to do a little Calvados tasting of their own.  Jude and I set off in search of her ancestor's tomb.  We read that that Americans bombed the original 10th century tomb during WWII, but that a copy had been installed somewhere in the cathedral.

Alas, No Joy.  The Catholics had the apse gated and locked, no doubt to prepare for the celebration of Fertility Bunny Day (Easter to normal folks).  We could see where Rollo/Robert I's tomb is likely to be found.  But we'll have to await a future trip to see if we can't get the pere to unlock the place.

In all, the locals have kept Jude's ancestry in decent order.  The old parts of the village are clean and beautiful.  The cathedral is mostly repaired and celebrations of mass take place daily.  The bells that the Americans bombed back to molten metal in WWII have been recast, the bell tower rebuilt, and the bells re-installed.

While listening to the bells of Good Friday, we explained to a local what our Friends From England had told us not 5 minutes before.  The bells tolled for the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.  The Frenchman was surprised to learn this, nodded his head in understanding, and wished us a bonne soiree.

Needless to say, seeing our Friends From England was the highlight of the trip.  They are doing well.  We plotted and planned a visit for later this summer when Jude and I will head their direction in search of fan-vaulted ceilings, the likes of which are only found in Merry 'Ol.

I'm glad we can experience these kinds of things with friends.  This is life.  If it's not lived now, when will it be?