ME AND MY OPERATION: Inguinal hernia repair
Your right to err - once
The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service, by Gillian Harvey
EVERYONE living in France has had the right since last summer to make a mistake – once – in their dealings with authorities and bureaucracy. Known as the “droit à l’erreur”, it is the equivalent of a one-time-only “get out of jail free” card but only if the error was made in good faith. Repeated errors of the same kind are considered to be deliberate and therefore do not qualify. The law was a campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron. It means that anyone who has breached a rule for the first time, or “made a material error”, cannot be punished if they have corrected the situation on their own initiative or
Hernia meant that singing left me in excruciating pain Musician and singing teacher Peter Evans, 58, moved to France in 2013 with wife Ema. The pair run meditation and singing retreats near Lac de Vassivière. Initial symptoms In April 2018, I noticed a swelling on the left side of my groin. I recognised it instantly, as I’d had two hernias in the past – the first aged 18, and the second when I was 38. If I lay on my back, it was possible to push the swelling back in, but when I coughed it would pop straight out again. It was a little tender but not painful. I might have over-exerted myself when digging up a rose bush in the garden the day before. I went to see my local GP, who confirmed the diagnosis. He asked whether I wanted to have the hernia operated on. As they don’t heal themselves and are likely to get worse if left untreated, I said that I did, but wanted to wait until autumn as summer can be busy as I run singing groups and am also a keen cyclist. However, the next month, whilst running singing classes, which can put strain on the abdominal muscles, I got the first of three episodes of excruciating pain. A hernia is caused by part of the intestines poking out through a weak section of the abdominal wall; if it gets trapped, it can cause agonising pain and unless you can get it to go back in, it can become “strangulated” and you need emergency surgery. Luckily, I managed to get it to pop back in by lying down and massaging the area, so hospital was not needed. However, I made an urgent appointment with my GP, who referred me to the Clinique François Chénieux in Limoges for the following week. Amazingly, I still managed to complete the rest of the singing workshop and also take part in a fourand-a-half-hour cycling event in the intervening week. At the hospital The check-up at the hospital was just to confirm the diagnosis and to arrange a date for surgery, which was set for September. I could have had an earlier
FACTS ON inguinal hernia
Dr Renaud Chiche, chirurgien digestif at the Clinique Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
How is an inguinal hernia diagnosed? An inguinal (groin) hernia appears as a swelling in the groin, which corresponds with the passage of the intestines through the inguinal canal. It is usually painless and often disappears when the patient stretches, or presses on the swelling. A inguinal hernia may remain asymptomatic for years but it will only grow and cannot heal spontaneously. The most serious complication is strangulation: the intestines stuck in the hernia can lose blood supply (necrosis); in this case, emergency surgery is required. How long does the operation take? Two types of surgery are possible: by an incision of the groin (which can be done under local anaesthesia) or by
laparoscopy (under general anaesthesia). The laparoscopy is minimally invasive and is less painful for the patient. Could you briefly describe what is done to rectify the hernia? In almost all cases, a parietal reinforcement (mesh) is put in place to prevent recurrence. Surgery usually lasts about 30 minutes and is carried out on a day-patient basis. What is the prognosis for patients after the operation? The risk of complications after surgery are very low (haematomas, after-pain and, in exceptional cases, infection may occur). The use of prosthetics means that the chance of recurrence is less than 2%.
NEXT MONTH: Cataracts
Peter Evans was in hospital for less than 12 hours to have hernia repaired appointment, but wanted to wait until after the summer. Two weeks prior to the operation, I had an appointment with the anaesthetist to talk about my medication and check my blood pressure. I was offered the choice between a spinal anaesthesia and general. I opted for the general because I’d never had any problem with them in the past, and didn’t like the idea of being temporarily paralysed. The operation I checked in for the operation on the day
itself at 7.30am. As I was first on the list for theatre, I was taken to surgery at around 9am. The procedure takes around 45 minutes, and I was fully awake in my room by around lunchtime. After a few checks by nurses and the surgeon, a sandwich and a couple of cups of coffee, my head had cleared sufficiently for me to head home in the ambulance taxi by 7pm. You are allowed to go home the same day if you have a responsible adult waiting for you. The staff at the hospital were great and spoke “lentement, clairement et simplement” for me, and both the ambulance taxi drivers were lovely as well – though I did have to ask the guy on the way home to take it a bit easier around the corners of the Lac-side roads! Aftercare Once I was home, the local nurses came daily to check the wound and change the dressings for the first week. After seven days, with the incision sufficiently healed, they removed the outer stitches (there were two more layers of self-dissolving sutures under the skin). Around a month after the procedure, I had another appointment with the surgeon so that I could be given the all-clear to gradually resume my usual activities.
High-altitude French ski resorts are eyesores This is partly false When it comes to high-altitude French ski resorts, the aesthetic is often not pretty. Concrete tower blocks from the 60s and 70s jostle with purpose-built squares to supply huge demand in Tignes (2,100m), Avoriaz (1,800m) and Les Arcs (2,100m). The appeal of these Brit-crowded resorts can quickly wear thin... at which point it is time to move towards prettier Alpine
In this column we look at claims often made about France and whether they are actually true pastures. The picturesque Savoyard village of Samoëns, perched at 1,600m, is attached to 265km of pistes belonging to the Grand Massif ski area. The ancient village is classed as a monument historique and in the quaint mountain eateries you will find that the majority of the customers are
French. The old cheesemaking village of St Martin-deBelleville is lower than the neighbouring Trois Vallées resorts of Méribel and Val Thorens but speedy lifts get you up the mountain in a flash. Take the lift over Col de Rosael from Val Thorens to get to Orelle, a cluster of 10 hamlets in the Maurienne valley. You have the best of both worlds here: access to the Trois Vallées slopes but far enough away for some peace and quiet. Traditional architecture
abounds at Les Saisies. Nestled in the Beaufortain valley, the village boasts stunning views of Mont Blanc. Known as a cross-country resort, its gentle inclines are ideal for families and beginners. If you enjoy a hearty meal after a day on the slopes, try Serre Chevalier in the Ecrins national park. With 250km of ski slopes and a dozen idyllic villages, this is where to find roaring log fires and a typically cosy mountain atmosphere.
after being invited to do so by the administration. During his campaign, President Macron gave two examples to illustrate how this works. “Today, an employer who forgets to declare to URSSAF the Christmas bonus he paid to his employees is fined. He will be able to assert his right to make a mistake tomorrow,” he said. “Today, grandparents who are giving accommodation to their granddaughter because she has just found a job near them must report this to CAF or risk losing part of their housing benefits and paying penalties. “Tomorrow, they will be able to exercise their right to make mistakes and will not have to pay the penalty.”
Cashback sites on the rise Cashback websites which give you money when you make a purchase from a partner internet site are on the rise in France. Shoppers who buy an item on a partner site receive a percentage of the money they spend back from the site. Christian Goaziou, founder of the largest such site in France iGraal, said it works because it is based on a classic economic model: “All retail companies, large or small, are always on the lookout for two things: one, to increase their sales, and two, to attract more customers. “For that they will spend a fortune on advertising. “With us they get cheap publicity as people are encouraged to buy as they get money back. “We negotiate a deal with the seller. They might give us 10% of the purchase price of any sale through our site and we will pass on a percentage of that to the customer.” More than four million
people are signed up to iGraal. When a customer wants to buy a lawn mower, for example, they go on the site, look up the partner sites selling them, and buy. A percentage of what they pay then comes back to them via their iGraal account. Customers can “earn” €100 to €150 a year. There are more than 50 similar sites in France, including eBuyClub, with 2.5million members. Cashback in France is not as developed as in the US or the UK, but a survey in 2016 showed a 20% increase every year since 2012. As always, you must look at the small print to know what you are signing up for. There are often bigger cashbacks for a first purchase, for example. Consumer websites give one warning; sign up with free cashback sites, as pay-to-join sites have attracted complaints and sites should make their money from retailers.
GPS turns off police checks MOTORISTS who use Waze or Coyote GPS applications may soon lose advance warning of certain police checks. A bill that would force the apps to conceal specific types of police presence has the support of the companies behind the apps, as well as motoring and road safety groups. Speed camera operations would not be affected by the draft law but alcohol stops would be removed, as would police checks in case of terrorist or criminal activity. Road safety minister Emmanuel Barbe said: “The principle [of this bill] is that a criminal who has kidnapped someone, perpetrated a terrorist act or who is drunk while driving cannot avoid a police check just because another driver has reported it via an application”. The bill will be presented for vote early this year.
Gluten-free sweet deliveries SWEET news for anyone who is gluten-intolerant: a pâtisserie in Lyon that sells only gluten-free products now delivers its gateaux nationwide. Les Gasteliers’ pastries can be ordered online (lesgasteliers.fr), and will arrive on your doorstep within 48 hours. The
pâtisserie opened in 2017 with a mission to create original recipes that are 100% gluten-free and made using ingredients from organic or sustainable sources, supplied directly by producers. They also have a lactose-free range for dairy-intolerant customers.
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