France, Out and About, Parenting, The Kidlets

A spanner in the works…

…of our holiday in France.

I’ll write a full post about Disneyland Paris itself shortly but for now let me vent about the dramas we had a few days out from the end of our holiday!

We arrived in France on Monday morning , checked into our hotel and then spent the better part of the next few days at Disneyland.  On Thursday just as we were about to climb on Crush’s Coaster (Finding Nemo themed rollercoaster), Master 5 threw up.  At the time we figured he’d had a long day and we’d been snacking as we walked so it was probably a minor tummy upset.  I was pretty pleased he’d vomited BEFORE the ride for obvious reasons (Crush’s Coaster spins around A LOT I hate to think how many family members would have been covered in spew by the end of the ride).

As we walked to the bus stop he threw up again.  This time he’d emptied everything I could recall him eating (yes, I’m gross like that evaluating the contents of my kids chuck up) and I suspected this was the end of it.

Alas it was not.  That night I slept beside Master 5 to carry him to the toilet to vomit throughout the night.  Friday morning he was still retching up bile.  I spent Friday morning holding him upright and giving him constant pep talks trying to keep each sip of water in him for at least 10 minutes (good old Doctor Google told me that if you can hold water for 10 minutes even if you throw it up you’ve absorbed some fluids).  He always threw it up but for the record anyone in the same situation, I may just have saved him from severe dehydration with this tactic.  I felt like a cow forcefully telling him:

  • No matey you are not going to throw this up, deep breaths
  • Stop! I know you’re thirsty but you can only have one sip
  • “Sorry sweetheart but you can’t lie down or you’ll throw up, I know you’re exhausted but no lying down“.

He hated me that morning, but it was necessary.  Full grown adults can die from food poisoning and uncontrollable vomiting.   When I snuck down to breakfast at one point, Daddy was a little more lax and let him lay down for a sleep….he threw up all the water I’d given him when I got back upstairs.

All Mums have nursed a vomiting child and we all know the normal drill of them getting rest and keeping up fluids but this was something different.  He was throwing up every sip of water during the night no matter how small the sip.  It was just awful, I’ve never seen anything like it.

By 2pm Friday I had noticed some funny red spots on his face that weren’t passing the glass test for meningitis and hubby went down to reception to request a doctor.

A French doctor arrived not long after and after a full examination where James could barely speak, was drifting in and out of sleep and now had a headache it was decided he needed to go to hospital as he had several symptoms of Meningitis.

The doctor was great and spoke English so there were only minimal hand signals trying to explain what we meant.  The paramedics that arrived didn’t speak a word of English but called down to the front desk for a translator immediately once they realised we couldn’t speak French.  They couldn’t communicate verbally with Master 5 but they ruffled his hair, smiled at him and were lovely all the same.  We paid for the doctor and the ambulance and off James and I went whilst hubby stayed with the other boys.

Once we arrived at the hospital and said goodbye to the paramedics we were placed in a corner of the Emergency Room.  There weren’t many patients waiting so all looked good.  The paramedics had given us a baggy for  vomit and he continued to dry retch and bring up bile between sleeping the entire time we were there.

After all the patients ahead of us had been seen by a doctor, it started to become apparent that new people arriving were being seen before us.  Aussie hospitals use Triage so I’m familiar with and fully support the sickest patients being seen to first…however it didn’t matter how minor the problem was, every one was being seen before us.  We had no access to water and were not offered any (remembering my child was still vomiting regularly), nor was he checked on by a nurse.  I was ignored because all I have are a few short French phrases none of which have anything to do with being in a hospital.  I had to stand my ground and demand to be let through to a toilet for my son TWICE whilst they pretended to not know what I was talking about.  At the time I was pleased he was passing urine at all (yay for the bullying method of keeping fluids in your child).  5 hours after arriving the waiting room was empty.  Unfortunately this had happened several times before but always one lone French person would wander into the E.R after 20 or so minutes and we’d land back at the bottom of the queue.

After our second attempt to get to the toilet (the being ignored, the being talked about amongst themselves as they glared in my direction (silly ignorant English speaking idiot…or so I’d imagine) and as I glanced around the empty waiting room and my eyes landed on my poor little boy passed out on a bed with suspected meningitis I just cried.

Waiting rooms are unpleasant and frightening at the best of times but the feeling of isolation not only because there was no one there I knew but also that I was in a foreign country and couldn’t speak the language.  It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

I actually sms’ed hubby at one point to tell him that I didn’t believe they were actually going to see him as the room had been empty for so long and still no one had come to speak with us.  I thought they were just going to ignore us until we finally left.  We started investigating a quick way to get over the channel to an English hospital that night, fortunately we didn’t need to in the end.

After 5 and a half hours a nurse finally came to take us through to see a doctor.  I was so relieved, I got teary eyed again.  We waited another 30 minutes before being seen but at least there was progress.

Blood and mucus were taken and he was given paracetamol for his fever (which developed whilst we waited in the hospital, not that any one would have noticed!) and something to stop the vomiting.  The doctors and nurses spoke English (I suspect the women behind the desk could speak English too but they certainly weren’t letting on).

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting everyone to pander to me in France when I can’t speak their native language but I honestly put in an effort to try and communicate with them.  My French is very poor and all of it came from a few lessons of Pimsleurs Learn to Speak and Understand French.  My pronunciation I suspect was atrocious but I honestly tried.

This hospital was around the corner from Disneyland Paris and the Disney Hotel’s, I couldn’t possibly be the first tourist to end up in their E.R!  Sure I’m not French but Europe’s economy is not in a great state at the moment surely they’d be happy to have English/Australian/American tourists (all of which I met at the hotel and at the Park’s) spending money in their restaurants, theme park’s, hotels, public transport etc.    Nationality aside, I’m a human being with a sick child.  How can an entire group of people decide I’m worthless and not worthy of so much as a kind word?  Honestly I am disgusted and though its impossible for me to know I hope that my home country would never treat a foreigner the way I was treated.

Anyway!  When test results came back he was given the all clear for Meningitis and all strains of the flu.  We’re fairly certain it must have been a pretty violent case of food poisoning or something else he ingested.  We ate the same food as him and were all fine.  Master 5 has a gross habit of licking random seats and tables and doing gross things like putting his drink bottle in dirt and on train seats etc. and then chewing the bottom of his bottle.  He also swallowed quite a bit of pool water at the pool.  Any of many gross things this little ragamuffin does on a daily basis could have caused it.  They treated him with the bare minimum in the hospital, they tested him and they stopped his vomiting (for a few hours anyway) but he was not put on an I.V to replenish fluids nor were we given anything but two cups of plain tap water.  In the end I was just happy they saw him at all.

Getting out of the hospital was a challenge (given none of the signs were in English) and after escaping the area we saw the doctor in (finally someone took pity on me and helped me open the main door (“hold down button whilst pushing on the door to exit” was in French)) I tried to find out whether I needed to sign something and pay.  The mention of payment got me a disgusted and confused look and finally something about, “later” so I’m guessing we’ll get a bill in the mail?  I tried to exit where we had entered the hospital and was yelled at.  I didn’t know what I had done wrong but was hustled into another room and then left again.  Naturally the tears started again (I’m not a big crier and when I do it’s almost always in private….but I hadn’t eaten in 12 hours or drunk anything and it was now 11pm) and I sat in a seat and sms’ed hubby.

Eventually one of the staff from the hotel came in to find me.  I’ve never been so happy to see someone in all my life.  I may have gushed a little too much about how pleased I was to see her and what a relief it was to talk to someone who spoke English, I didn’t care!

The next day was Saturday and we arrived back in London that night.  During the journey home he was still dry retching and throwing up bits of water.

52 hours of vomiting!  For anyone that’s pretty extreme, let alone for a 5-year-old.

Sunday he woke up looking so much better.

He’s home from school today because he’s still too weak to make the walk from home to school without being exhausted by the time he gets there.

I’ll get cracking on the Disneyland post, it was pretty awesome even despite the trip to the hospital.

Look who Daddy had for him when we got back to the hotel that night!

4 thoughts on “A spanner in the works…”

  1. Oh, I got frustrated!! Your poor boy! That was very rude of the hospital! Doesn’t “emergency” mean immediate care NOW? And I can tell from the picture how sick your little boy was! He looks awfully happy to see that Mickey Mouse!!

    I hope it didn’t totally ruin the vacation. At least you were able to get to the park.

    I’d write a letter to the hospital. But that’s just the way I am.

    I bet it was nice to get home!


  2. It was just awful. At one point between sleep and vomiting he noticed that the waiting room was empty and someone new had just walked in. He asked me with his little lip quivering, “Mummy, why is everyone else getting to go and not me?”. It was heart breaking because there I was almost in tears over the very same thing. What do you say to your child who expects his Mum to have a reason that he’s to young to have worked out for himself!?

    I don’t think the letter would help unfortunately. Firstly I’m a foreigner so they’d have no reason not to throw it straight in the garbage (not a tax payer or a voter)…and I half expect its a French policy to see all French citizens before a foreign national.

    My recommendation to any one travelling to France would be to pick up anti-nausea medication and travellers diarrhea tablets from your home country before you leave….just in case! I know you would do those things travelling to say Africa, India and parts of East Asia but it wouldn’t have crossed my mind in a nation like France. I think we’ll be holidaying in the U.K in the near future. Yes NHS has a terrible reputation for long queue’s but at least the Brits are experts at queue’ing and its always fair!

    I was so relieved to be back on British soil! Huge sigh of relief.


  3. Sorry you had such a terrible experience Jen. That’s bloody unacceptable but I guess it just proves what they say about the French. I know there’s probably many nice French ppl, but they have a bad reputation… just sayin’.

    Glad you are back home now and the little guy is feeling a little better from the ordeal.

    So, question is…. how r u? Sounds like it almost turned into the holiday from hell, with the only redeeming factor being the fun you had at Disneyland.


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