Last Sunday night was just like any other night and I went to bed at my granny hour, around 10:30 pm, just to be woken up at some point during the night. Around 3 a.m., I woke up (probably because of my relentless eye issue) and as I rolled over, I was startled by a sharp pain in my knee that came out of nowhere. I don’t even work out on Sundays and have never had knee problems in my life, so what the heck was this? And how does it relate to French efficiency?
So here I was lying in bed wondering if I should move. Whenever I’d bend my left knee, I’d get a shooting pain right above the kneecap. I hoped it was a bad dream and attempted to go back to sleep in a twisted position as to not aggravate the knee. Upon waking, the damn pain was still there. Not a dream.
Sitting down to pee was awesome because whenever the knee was bent to a 90-degree angle, it would send a sharp pain into my upper knee area. Going down the stairs was just as fun. I waited about an hour to see if moving around would help and it did a little, but the pain didn’t disappear. I think my hard mattress is to blame for this one.
So around 9 a.m., I surprised myself because I knew exactly what to do – and I actually did it. I made an appointment with the physical therapist, affectionately called the kiné, short for kinésitherapeute, who happens to be down the street.
Why was this surprising? Because 1) I had already been to the kiné for my twisted ankle earlier this year and knew his number, and 2) I didn’t hesitate in making the appointment myself. Number 2 there is how you know this was serious. Normally I like to feign ignorance and have Tom do it — or when it requires some extra special finessing to get what you want, I employ the help of my mother-in-law who seems to have magical powers. But no help needed today. The pain was bad enough that I picked up the phone and called him myself.
Now let me pause for a second. Back in the US, if this sort of thing happened, I’d hobble around for weeks like an idiot cursing my jacked up knee and anyone in its path before calling a doctor — definitely would not call a PT for my relatively minor (although painful) knee issue that started the night before. My kneecap would have to be just about falling off my leg for me to make an appointment with a physical therapist.
Because I feel like physical therapists in the US are reserved for people after surgery or accidents or a fall. And most definitely fall into the
damn I’d better not ask how much this is costing specialist category under my insurance plan — that special category where you never know the price until it’s too late. High insurance premiums and gray coverage areas make Americans tough as nails when it comes to sickness (and that sucks, but French healthcare has some pluses!). And what else? Normally you’d have to call your regular doc to see you first to officially refer you to the PT and by then you’ve already taken off a half day of work and blah blah blah.
And miraculously if I’d managed to get an appointment for the same day back in the US, I sure as hell had better have my referral and/or insurance card, ID and copay read all BEFORE the appointment. Medical appointments are very serious, you know, and you usually have to fill out a stack of papers before even getting in the same airspace as the practitioner.
But here in France?
Pretty relaxed ordeal. We live in our city center and it has a small-town feel. I can walk to my guy in literally 2 minutes (and grocery store and bank and post office in maybe 10 min).
So the morning of the knee pain, I called my kiné. I didn’t wait to see if my knee would get better on its own. The therapist picked right up and fit me in the same day (that’s service!). Simple. He knows my name. He didn’t care that I’m not getting the referral from my reg doc until Saturday (so I can be reimbursed).
Best part? He didn’t even charge me. Honor system that I will see my doctor to make everything official and get my knee some help.
So 7:30 p.m. (!!!!) rolled around and I went to my appointment. He examined my knee, massaged some tendons, did some shockwave therapy with this zappy machine that kind of zaps you 500 times in quick succession (official name? no idea), taped up my knee and told me to pop back in next Monday for round 2. I totally feel like I’m healing already.
Just as easy as buying a baguette, right?
So moral of the story? If you have any type of issue in France that requires a physical therapist, make an appointment and you’ll feel better soon. They’re there to help you. In France, you don’t have to be a serious case to take advantage of a physical therapist’s services. It’s easy. And that’s a very welcome change.
My knee felt better the next day.