That's Max behind the door! Today's story begins in Aix-en-Provence, the city of a thousand fountains and tears....
TODAY'S WORD: la maladie
: illness, sickness, condition, disease, pathosis
le congé de maladie = sick leave
la maladie de la vache folle = mad cow disease
l'assurance maladie = health insurance
ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word: Download Maladie-des-amoureux
La mononucléose infectieuse est aussi appélee la maladie des amoureux.
Mononucleosis is also called the lovers illness.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Friday, after trying to donate our sang at our town's blood drive, we rushed to Aix-en-Provence to pick up our daughter. We found her on the curb of the city's périphérique. Bundled inside a coat and wearing a scarf up to her ears, tears were streaming down her face which looked pale and swollen.
As soon as Jackie got into the car she thanked us for coming to get her. "Je n'ai pas dormi la nuit. Je crois que c'est une angine. Ça fait tellement mal! " I didn't sleep all night. I think I have a throat infection. It hurts so bad!
With that, she curled into a ball in the back seat, beside her her tattered Bunny (plucked nostalgically from storage before she moved to Aix for design school). The sides of her throat were enlarged, her head ached, and when she swallowed a look of extreme douleur creased her face, causing more tears to pour out. "And there is a bump on the back of my head..." she said.
I reached into the back seat and felt behind our 19-year-old's head. The bosse was the size of an olive.
Jackie pushed my hand away, complaining of pain. The other symptoms she mentioned seemed related, but this bump on the back of her head....
"Sweetie. Did you hit your head?"
"I don't think so. Pas que je sache."
I turned back around in the passenger seat and shot a panicked look over to the driver. Jean-Marc hit the gas and soon we arrived the doctor's office--at which point everything slowed way down.....
The next scene could be summed up in one word: "farce". The dark comedy began with a foreign doctor who spoke worse French than I. Ushering us into her office, she became fussy about seating, rearranging chairs until we grabbed onto one.
"C'est bon. Merci! This one is fine. Thank you!" We were anxious to get Jackie to the pharmacy for some calmants, as soon as we could get a diagnosis and a prescription.
The doctor finally returned to her own chair and caught her breath. (Breath that you could visibly see, so cold was her examining room!) "What brings you here?" she said. But as soon as she spoke, elle s'est pliée en deux!--bent over, it seemed, in a pain of her own!
As she listened to us recount Jackie's symptoms, she leaned in to say something to us. Her hand over her stomach, the doctor shrieked, "J'ai le gastro!" I have diarrhea!
Jean-Marc and I were stunned. Jackie didn't seem to hear, but sat shivering in the examination chair, all but begging for morphine.
For someone who had a bad case of the runs, the doctor seemed bent on getting through the consultation. She pulled a fresh wooden stick out of a paper envelope and hobbled over to her patient. But when she reached to dry our daughter's tears, I sensed something was off. Perhaps it was all the dramatics involved in each gesture. The doctor hobbled back and forth to the supply cabinet, to the trash can, each effort punctuated by some or other high-pitched announcement we could not understand (except when she hollered, "C'était les oeufs! The corner store sold me rotten eggs for lunch. And now I have gastro!!)." She shouted each bit of information, holding this audience of three captive, on the edge of our seats!
Twice the size of Dr. Ruth and wearing a suede skirt, the doctor shouted. "Come, Mama, look at this!"
I shot up, following the doctor's orders. It seemed the sooner we reacted, the sooner we'd get out of here! Hélas....
A stick held down Jackie's tongue but there was nothing to stem her tears. I peered into her throat which was coated white.
"This is (something something) necrosis," the doctor shouted. "There, you see it? Look at that!"
Necrosis sounded very bad indeed! We needed to get our daughter out of here--out of this ICE BOX and into a warm place with something to calm the pain.
Jean-Marc and I were now leaning over the doctor's desk in an effort to help her write out the information we so desperately needed--directions to an ORL specialist. But there was no rushing things with Dr. Ruth, no matter how desperately she herself needed to go! If Dr. Ruth was THIS ill with le gastro, why did she bother to let us in? I began to wonder, Was this an episode of La Caméra Cachée? When would the film crew reveal themselves?
The film crew never appeared, but the comedie noire continued--with more blood-curdling shouting from the doctor, more doubled-over gestures, and the nerve-racking question: would she make it (to the loo)!
When the three of us finally escaped, we were tongue-tied and in no mood to gossip about the lively doctor. Instead, we were silently thankful she could secure an appointment for Jackie at the ORL specialist--after more hollering and dramatics (Go Dr Ruth!). Here's to all good doctors who so often put their selves aside, to get us on le bon chemin, toward health and well-being.
Update: The ORL said it was not some kind of necrosis. It was...mononuleosis! Jackie will miss the rest of the school semester.
Jackie and her brother Max, who is good at cheering up his sister by making her laugh.
le périphérique = ring road, beltway
une angine= throat infection
une bosse = bump, lump
la douleur = pain
pas que je sache = not to my knowledge
le calmant = painkiller
se plier en deux = to double over, to bend over in pain
hélas = unfortunately
ORL (oto-rhino-laryngologiste) = ENT specialist
la caméra cachée = candid camera
I leave you with some favorite family pictures. Jackie learning to snorkel in the Mediterranean, with Jean-Marc
Jackie wanted her dad to take her to the doctor. Papa au secours! Daddy to the rescue! (Photo taken around 2004)
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety