29 March 2009

Monopoly Fever

Yesterday was Saturday, our 'Go Out and Exlore Paris' day. It began in the morning with a 10am appointment at our local beauty salon. Delaney had her hair cut and highlighted, while I had a manicure and pedicure. LR Coiffures, located a few blocks from our apartment on avenue de Ségur, is a cheerful little salon painted the color of butter. Anna and Carla do hair, while Luisa from Brazil does nails.  They speak very little English, but seem thrilled to see us whenever we come in. They struggle to understand what we're saying, and praise us endlessly when we manage to successfully communicate with them in French.  Delaney's hair turned out beautifully.

While we were primping, Randy took the dogs for a walk and then went to the local street market to buy provisions for the week.  A whole rotisserie chicken, fresh roasted cashews, dried mango, dried apricots, fresh basil, oranges, tangerines, fresh pasta, geraniums and a Lebanese pita sandwich.  

He joined us at noon and we set out for Pizza Tina, an Italian restaurant on avenue Bosquet. We had pizza, beer and Orangina and planned the rest of the day.  Delaney was pushing for a trip to Passy, an area across the Seine in the 16th.  According to Wikipedia, it's best known to Americans for being home to Benjamin Franklin for the 9 years he lived in France during the American Revolution.  Delaney's friends raved to her about its many boutiques and cafes.  As we'd never been, we figured we'd give it a go.

We set out in that direction, but first stopped off to buy clippers to fix Scout's hair (a true disaster) and a lap blanket for moi, l'invalide.  It was COLD!  We bought one at Reve Blanc, a lovely linen shop on 155 Rue de Grenelle that we'd visited before.  Claudine, the proprietor, was helpful, showing us several lap throws ranging in quality and price.  We selected one and bought a new set of towels as well.  Then we were off to walk to Passy.   Well two walked and one rolled. 

Along the way it began to sprinkle.  By the time we crossed the Seine, it was a full fledged rain shower.  We huddled under the eaves of the buildings waiting for the storm to pass.  We stopped in a few shops.  Randy bought a belt at Loding, a fine men's shop with gorgeous clothes. Eventually, we gave up and hailed a cab for home.  

Once there, Delaney suggested we play Monopoly, her favorite board game.  That was at around 3:30pm.  Four hours later we were still in the thick of it!  Each of us with our monopolies loaded with houses and hotels.  We had fun!  We were so engrossed in our game that we lost all concept of time.  Rain pelted the windows while we enjoyed each other's company in our warm and comfortable apartment.  Granted, we didn't see much of Paris Saturday.  But we spent a lot of family time together and along the way, helped Delaney understand the merits of saving versus spending.  Not a bad lesson to learn in these dark times.

Moving Along and Making Progress

Friday I spent my first full day back in the office since my accident. Randy got driving directions from the Internet and rode the three metro stops to the parking place we rent to retrieve the car. Fortunately for us, the motor pool car on loan to us started right up. We were concerned it wouldn't because we hadn't driven it since parking it in late January. He double-parked outside and came up to get me, the wheel chair, the docking station for the new laptop (another long story) and the lunch he packed for me.

We left at 8:30am for the morning commute. Parisiens tend to arrive at work around 9 or 9:30, work till noon, have lunch until 2 or so, and then work until 6 or 7. I don't know who in France is fortunate to have the 35 hour work week, but no one I know does! We made it through the thick of traffic, with motor scooters sneaking in between the lanes of cars on our left and right, and onto A4 to A5 to A86 to Fontenay sous Bois in less than an hour. Drivers in Paris are incredibly aggressive; Manhattan drivers seem downright tame in comparison.

My office set up is such that people work in two buildings separated by a long walk. So my first stop was my office, which I hadn't been in since February 24th, the day of the genou disaster. Randy helped put my docking station together and get me squared away before heading back to Paris on his own.

I used my walker to get around. Friendly co-workers stopped by to welcome me back, expressing concern about my welfare and eagerly offering to help me if needed. The first meeting of the day was in a conference room in my building, down the hall from my office. It was conducted all 'en Français' by the head of the French business unit. He introduced me and said he was confident I would understand what was happening. Truth be told, if I didn't know the plot in advance, I would have been lost. As it stood, he was announcing a reorganization of which I was aware. I was pleased that I interpreted close to 50% of what he said and mind you he spoke very quickly.

There were meetings in the other building for the second half of the day, so I headed out with plenty of time to schlep the distance using my walker. I was fortunate it wasn't raining. It took more energy and stamina than I thought I had, so I felt pleased to arrive on time. It's tough to use a walker and carry anything, so I'm going to have to figure out how to keep this up until I can walk with both legs, leaving my hands free to carry a laptop bag or anything else. I stayed at work until around 6pm and then took a cab into Paris with the auditor who was over from the States doing work onsite.

We talked about audit results and the work environment over a nice meal at Auberge de Louvre on rue Saint Honoré. The prices were modest, the atmosphere quaint and the service impeccable. That's saying something for Paris, where all tips are included and thus there's not much incentive to go above and beyond. The wait staff were attentive to me with my walker and when I had to venture downstairs to the powder room, the waiter was right there with me letting me use his arm on the way down. He brought me my walker for the 10 steps to the ladies room and assured me he'd be back in two minutes to walk me back. And he was! I was astounded at his kindness.

There is no sense generalizing about anyone. There are kind and thoughtful people and there are rude and bitter people in every country, religion, race and gender. In my experience since arriving in Paris, I've encountered far more kind, thoughtful and helpful people than ever. As in kindergarten, if you treat people the way you want to be treated, you'll be rewarded. Friday was a rewarding day.

26 March 2009

Odds and Ends

Our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Le Bistrot de Breteuil, abruptly closed last week. It was so devastating to see. I mean this was a charming restaurant with wonderful food and great atmosphere, and just blocks from our apartment. Everyone in the neighborhood was shocked to see that literally overnight it was emptied out and the windows soaped over. The sad state of the economy must be to blame, though we never saw the place empty. No telling how long before another restaurant opens there. Disconcerting for us.

This week I was overwhelmed by the kindness of many friends back home who are sending gifts and goodies to make us feel better. Good friends sent a dozen long stem yellow roses. They are gorgeous and make the apartment beam like Spring. Colleagues at work sent a care package of goodies including HoHo's, Crest toothpaste with Scope (I requested that!), Nestle's chocolate chips and Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. It's like Christmas! It's awesome to receive something in the mail that literally doesn't exist in Paris. Words can't adequately convey how touched I am by the kindness of my friends.

I cut Scout's hair yesterday - with scissors. You should see her. We usually cut her hair with electric sheers, but we forgot to bring them. She was looking kind of scruffy, so I figured I'd give it a go. OMG. She looks like a Tuscany hillside. She's got patches of short and long hair, bald spots and then places with hair a half inch long. We have to venture out this weekend and find electric sheers so we can clean her up a bit. I can't believe she still follows me around like my shadow. Maybe it's because she hasn't looked in the mirror yet.

Nick Comes to Paris

We enjoyed some time with Nick this past weekend. He had some vacation saved up at work, so he was able to travel to Europe to spend time with Logan, a college chum of his who teaches English in Salzburg, Austria. They did some snowboarding as well as some altruistic work teaching English to a bevy of beautiful Austrian girls. It was tough for Nick to break away to fly to Paris for his four-day visit.

He arrived late Thursday and stayed through Tuesday morning when he left early for CDG so he could fly back home. During his stay, we showed him some of our favorite parts of Paris and treated him to a meal or two or three. He seemed to enjoy our neighborhood market the most. It's open from 8-1 on Thursdays and Saturdays and has just about anything one could need. He was ecstatic to see all of the colorful food and the people. He filmed some of his adventure and posted it to Facebook. It was a kick to see his reaction.

We spent time together and we often split up so that he could pour through vinyl records at Parisienne music shops. On Sunday, we went to the Musee D'Orsay to see the Impressionists. That was a fine moment because we arrived to see a huge line outside the doors. It was a cloudy and cold day, perfect for spending several hours in a warm museum. Fortunately for us, the security guards hailed us over to a special entrance - for the DISABLED! How about that. Not only were we pulled to the front of the line, but my entrance fee and that of my escort (Mr. Harris) was FREE! We had only to pay for Nick. Finally, some good has come from my genou disaster. The D'Orsay has beautiful works and we really enjoyed our time there.

Every night Nick ventured out into Paris after we retired to bed. He lamented that his life back in the states was too dull to contemplate so he wasn't going to waste a single minute in Paris on sleep. He went to the local pubs and met people who took him to other bars. I knew he was charismatic, but it really floored me how willingly he went out into the night to meet with the locals. He would come home when the sun was rising, sleep a few hours, and then be up and showered to go out again. Oh, to be young again. Still, as a mother, it's not easy to sleep soundly when your son is roaming the streets of Paris. Granted he's 24 years old, but a mother cannot turn her instinct off. It took him leaving to return to Portland for me to once again get a good night's rest. I miss him, but I don't miss worrying about him.

A Surgical Masterpiece

Tuesday we had to go back to the Hôpital Américain in Neuilly for a one month check up with Dr. C, the orthopedic surgeon who operated on my knee (genou in French). Given my situation, we couldn't take the metro so we hailed a cab, folded up the wheelchair and headed out. What should have been an 11 euro trip was 17. So aggravating!

This hospital is quite swanky. Apparently, the French elite go here because it's private and there's a sense that the care is much better than in your average French public hospital. In fact, this is where Yves Saint Laurent went in his final days. The people in the lobby and all around are dressed very well, with many of the women wearing fur and flashy jewelry. We stand out, not only because of our English, but because we dress a bit more casually for a hospital visit.

First we visited radiology for a fresh x-ray and then waited outside Dr. C's office for a good half hour. Having the x-ray taken was quite painful. My knee was twisted into three or four positions and I was told to hold still - in French. I did as I was told and prayed for relief.

It's interesting how it works in France. Dr. C has no nurse who retrieves you from the waiting room to park you in an empty exam room with the implication that you'll soon be seen. That's the American custom. Trickery to make you feel as if things are progressing, despite the fact that your appointment was over a half an hour ago. No, you wait in the lounge until he personally comes out to get you. He was in a great mood talking about the people he had just seen when they were still well within earshot. "Some people are so nervous for no good reason," he exclaimed. "And look at you, smiling and happy and you're the one who had the surgery!" I was beginning to think his bedside manner had improved. It was short lived.

He pushed me into his office with exam table nearby and then proceeded to chastise me for being in a wheel chair. "Where are your crutches? What are you doing wheeling around in that?" I tried to explain that we had to go to the taxi station, that we weren't sure how far radiology was from his office, that I was trying to be responsible and focused on being on time. He would have none of it. He told me to hop up on the table and stretch out. He started pushing on my leg to straighten it and I about went through the ceiling. The pain was sharp, stinging and palpable. He said things look great! What??? I thought. He said I was only 5% from having my leg perfectly straight. He asked me to bend my knee up to my chest. I did with no problem and no pain. He was ecstatic. "Look at that!" he exclaimed. "Marvelous!"

He asked Randy for the before and after x-rays and put them up on the light machine. He was thrilled with his work. Literally, he was just giddy at the perfection of the surgery. He showed us the difference and then got his camera out of his brief case so he could take pictures of the x-rays. He asked Randy to turn the lights out so that he could get better shots. I was wondering if he was going to show them off to his other doctor friends. It was the oddest thing I've ever seen.

Meanwhile I'm still on the exam table putting my shoes and socks back on. He calls me to his desk, a good 6-8 feet away so I hop off the table and hop over to him. That's when he yells at me: "What are you doing! You're going to fall and break it again." Then he threw up his hands and said, "You do what you want." Mind you he didn't offer to roll that wheel chair back over where I needed it. Unbelievable.

Randy and I explained that my pain pills were gone and I was struggling to sleep at night. He looked at the x-rays again and said things were going well. I begged him for pain pills so he acquieced and wrote a prescription. He told me to straighten my leg for 30 minutes per day, three times per day and to come back in a month. Then he sent us off to a secretary who collected 130 euros - cash only, she said.

We were hungry and had a follow on appointment with the French tax consultants who ironically have an office across the street, so we decided to dine at the hospital. There's a nice tea room, but we found it sold only sweets, so we headed downstairs. There we found a dining room complete with fine linens, china, silver and many wealthy people eating. We eventually were seated and too late for us, realized that this would be a very expensive lunch. Fifty-five euros later, after ordering only entrees and a coke, we rolled out into the fresh air.

Breaking a knee in Paris is a very, very expensive proposition.

21 March 2009

Notre Dame Silhouette

Notre Dame
I went down to Notre Dame to climb the 387 stairs to the top of the towers. I arrived early, about 9:15am to get in line and waited for the entrance to open at 10:00am. I was the third person in line, pulled out a book about Paris and read for awhile.

As it approached 10:00am, a person approached the entrance, unlocked the padlock to the door and then told the lady in front of me in French that the Notre Dame workers were on strike for the day. The Tower tour would not be open for the day.

I went out to the front of the cathedral with all the other hundreds of tourists and took photos of the ancient building. One unique composition I came up with was to shoot the gargoyles as a silhouette.

16 March 2009

Rolling through Paris

Life is settling down at Chez Harris.  I am working from home, which has its upside and downside.  On the upside, the commute from my bed to my office desk is 5 meters.  My desk chair is on wheels which makes it convenient to wheel around the apartment's hardwood floors to the bathroom, the kitchen, and the front door to greet my help - Catherine, the doctor from the lab, who comes twice weekly to draw blood, Sophie, the nurse, who comes twice weekly to change my bandages, and Christine, the physical therapist, who comes daily to work my knee, ankle and toes over.  There are always two little puppies dying to sleep in my lap as I toil away on IT.  On the downside, all discussions with colleagues are by phone which makes it difficult to read body language and really connect.  It's also difficult to sign and approve documents - it's  all done by email.  Finally, I get cabin fever and long for fresh air.

Christine told me about La Pagode movie theatre (57 rue de Babylone), raving that it's gorgeous, posh, and could accommodate my wheel chair, so off Randy and I went late Friday afternoon to check it out.  Our research revealed that at the turn of the century, the manager of the Bon Marche department store built a Japanese style pagoda with a ball room for his wife on the land next to their home.  After they divorced (I guess she wasn't impressed), La Pagode was rented out for events.  In the thirties, it was converted to a movie house theatre and it has served as one off and on ever since.  In the nineties, the then owner wanted to convert it to a restaurant, but the French Ministry of Culture interceded and granted La Pagode landmark status with the obligation to remain a cinema.  There are two movie theatres; on the main level, the largest and grandest has a luxurious and detailed ceiling, while down 12 steep stairs there is a smaller, simpler setting.  We traveled the six blocks from our apartment to see the Japanese garden out front where tea is often served to movie patrons. Unfortunately for us, the movie we were targeting was playing downstairs, so we must postpone our visit until after May 20th, the day I will be liberated from crutches, wheel chairs and walkers.

No matter, we kept going with Randy pushing me, Tucker and Scout through the beautiful and winding streets of the 7th and 6th Arrondissments, heading to our favorite part of  Rive Gauche - St. Germain des Pres.  We love it because it's lively all day, every day. 
Restaurants abound with people sitting out front enjoying wine, food, cigarettes and each others' company.  We window shopped at Christian Laboutin, Sonia Rykiel, Dior, Prada, Chanel et al eventually arriving at Les Deux Magots.  We stopped and dined on lamb shanks, mashed potatoes and wine.  The waiter brought our furried friends a water dish for under the table, while we, each with a dog in our lap, toasted our good fortune at living in the most beautiful city in the world.

05 March 2009

On the Hunt at Paris Fashion Week

Erin Dixon, a close family friend and Managing Editor of Dossier Journal, emailed Randy to see if he was interested in shooting Paris Fashion Week for Dossier. Interestingly, he read the email just minutes after he, Delaney and I had watched The Devil Wears Prada on our new Samsung T.V. We were having a good time spotting familiar places in the scenes set in Paris during Fashion Week. The subject of Erin's email was 'Paris Fashion Week'. Amazing.

Randy gave her a call and they chatted about what types of shots she was seeking. He promised to go out the next day and see what he could get. He then Googled the event, found and downloaded an online schedule, and started planning his approach for the next day.

After arriving home from French class, he put on black slacks and a sweater (he looked awesome), got his gear together and set off to shoot the Balmain, Rick Owens and Nina Ricci shows. Balmain's show was held at the Ritz in the Place Vendome. Mind you this was a first for him. So who does he shoot (and get great images of)? Grace Coddington, American VOGUE Creative Director, Nina Garcia, Editor in Chief of ELLE (and Project Runway judge), and Eva Herzigova, model! For his buddies back home who don't track fashion, that's akin to George Steinbrenner, Joe Torres and Derek Jeter.

Next up was Rick Owens. And who does the fashion newbie shoot there? ANNA WINTOUR, Editor-in-Chief of American VOGUE!!! Now he didn't know any of those fashion icons. He had me look over his 700+ images when he returned, skipping the Nina Ricci show to come home and make dinner for Delaney and me. We found a couple of people we recognized (Morley Safer from CBS' 60 Minutes), and many who appeared to be important. We figured we'd leave it to Erin to sort out who they were.

He also got great images of the Rick Owens show because he walked in behind the other photographers (in spite of having no formal credentials) and made his way to the front line. His photos were VOGUE quality; they were perfect, clear, crisp and well composed. I guess working on getting bears on a waterfall catching salmon in Alaska all framed up is good practice for doing the same with rail thin, vamped up Rick Owens clad models.

He was up until well past 2am editing the photos and uploading them to a site for Erin. He woke up this morning to a welcome email from Erin in which she wrote, "These are amazing! The mix is great, and I'm not sure if you realized how many major fashion "heavy hitters" you got... Oh my! I would almost say that because your candids are so good, don't even worry too much about detailed shots unless there is a particularly amazing item...And, the Rick Owen's photos are terrific." Another satisfied Randy Harris Photography client.

He's off now to French class (9-1pm, Mon-Fri) and a bit worried about not having completed his homework. He'll be back after class to go out again for Dossier to shoot the shows he can manage today...Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Lanvin, Yohji Yamamoto, etc.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

04 March 2009

Crippled American in Paris - Part Quatre

The Emergency Room at Hôpital Américain de Paris was gleaming. Clean, quiet, heaven. They greeted me as if I was a celebrity, well aware of my condition and with an orthopedic surgeon on his way in to assess the situation. The in take physician was an Irishman living 20 years in Paris. He was charming and helpful and made up for all the turmoil we'd been through up to that point. Shortly thereafter, the surgeon arrived who put the xrays and the CT scan results up and shook his head. Shorter on charm, but clearly intrigued by the challenge, he moved my foot, ankle, knee and said surgery was necessary. (Second opinion the same - reassuring.) Needing to harvest bone from my hip, he looked it over like a cannibal! He said he would use some hip bone, alone with a metal plate, to repair my displaced tibial plateau fracture. Surgery was scheduled for 12:30 the next day. I was taken to my room and settled in by midnight. Still no food. What a diet plan. Randy left for home this time feeling much more confident in the course we were on.

Next day the prep work began and I was in the operating theatre by 13:00. Woke up in recovery at 18:00 in bad pain. The general had worn off and the anesthesiologist was agonizing over what combination of pain killer to give me. Morphine wasn't working and I was, again, crying. He finally came up with a combo of four drugs and by 22:00 I left recovery for my room. What a day! Another one without food. Randy made sure I was settled and comfortable and then left to go home to Delaney.

I spent the next four days - Thursday through Sunday - drugged up and working with a physical therapist to learn how to use crutches on the stairs. Heaven and Hell he said, to help me remember to start with my good foot while going up and to start with my crutches (in lieu of my bad foot) going down. I used a walker for the most part because it felt safer.

My surgeon came by Monday to explain the conditions of my release. No using my left leg to walk for three months! He actually gave me a doctor's note so I could stay home from work for three months - impossible! Daily self-administered shots of blood thinner to prevent blood clots, bandages changed twice weekly by a nurse coming to our home until the stitches are out in three weeks, physical therapy three times per week by a professional coming to our home, lots of rest in the horizontal position and lots of ice. On the mend now and on the long road that took me from the first radiologist's assessment of "Mal, mal, mal" to the surgeon's command of "Ice, ice, ice."


Crippled American in Paris - Part Trois

An hour later and I'm still sitting in the waiting area being treated as if I were a piece of furniture. I was so frustrated, hungry, angry and in pain that I mustered the strength to get up and hop down the hall and thru the doors marked PRIVE (private) to ask why I was still sitting out there. The doctor said in French he was waiting for the CT scan results. I couldn't believe it. I said I already had the results and someone was supposed to be taking me to my room. Then he called a colleague in who had come on at 6pm and spoke English. He was a young intern and so very kind. I was sobbing and saying I had to leave.

Sitting there for that long actually was the best thing that could have happened. I watched as a tiny, elderly, toothless woman laying on a gurney in the hall cried out for help and was ignored. It was heart wrenching to see her in that state. The intern empathized with me and claimed they couldn't take her upstairs until her room was ready. I suggested she wasn't being treated with respect and surely they could put her somewhere more comfortable. His eyes indicated he felt the same as me, but the hurdles were too many and too high to change things. He told me they hadn't taken me to a room because they didn't know what to do with someone who didn't have a green card entitling them to free medical care. In spite of my insurance coverage, the receptionist was perplexed about what to do and the finance office was closed.

I asked how long I would have sat out there waiting if I hadn't come into where he was. He shrugged. I just broke down crying and begged to go to the American Hospital to get a second opinion and to be cared for by people who I could understand. He was unsettled by my reaction, but took charge of the situation. He called the American Hospital to explain my condition and to ensure they could take me in that night and operate the next day. He called a transport cab and wished me luck as he handed me the CT scan results to take with me. When I texted Randy telling him I was out of there, he was so relieved that I'd come to my senses.

Thirty minutes later the transport cab arrived, the intern and the driver assisted me into the back seat and we headed to Paris to pick Randy up on the way to Neuilly, the swanky suburb in which the Hôpital Américain de Paris is located on boulevard Victor Hugo. Arrived at 10:30pm. Transport was a pricey 150 euros. Well worth it.

Crippled American in Paris - Part Deux

The cab arrived and the driver sympathetically helped me into the front seat to accommodate my unbending leg. Randy rode in back and off we went winding thru narrow streets in a residential area until we arrived at a run down clinic with most of the staff milling around out front smoking cigarettes. We lumbered in and approached the receptionist announcing that we were there to get a cast. She didn't speak English and seemed irritated that we didn't speak French. We handed her the paper work from the doctor along with the x-ray and played charades trying to describe a cast - plaster, blanche, etc. They just looked at us like we were nuts. Finally they rustled up a lovely nurse all decked out in surgical gear who was fluent in English. She assisted in explaining why we had come and conferred with a doctor about the x-ray. They suggested that protocol was to do a CT scan just to ensure the full extent of the injury was known. As she was the only person in that clinic who spoke English, she took me up to radiology in a wheel chair while Randy sat in the crowded waiting room with what seemed to be very indigent people.

The CT scan took only 5 minutes and the nurse was able to have the radiologist provide the results immediately since she couldn't leave me with the French speakers. Everyone's faces dropped and after about 20 minutes a tall surgeon was brought to me to explain in very broken English about how I would require surgery and metal rods and he would operate the next morning at 11am. Talk about a shock. I had reconciled myself to having to cope with a cast and now I was facing surgery and a 3-5 day hospital stay!

She wheeled me back down to Randy and we broke the news. He took it about as well as I did. He kept looking at me asking if this was the right place to have surgery. Meanwhile the lovely nurse was saying we were lucky to be at this private clinic and that if we went to a public clinic we might wait a week or more for surgery. She said she'd worked at the clinic for 8 years and praised the orthopedic surgeon, telling us he was excellent. No doubt he was, but it took each of us awhile to absorb the situation we were facing. It was about 6pm and she was getting off. She said she lived in Paris and could give Randy a ride home, and assured me that the next morning she'd be with me to translate throughout the whole process. Randy looked at me in disbelief when I said I'd stay. I just figured the sooner I had the surgery, the sooner I'd be back at work and on my feet so I caved. She said they'd be down to take me to my room in no time. Randy took my jewelry, my purse, coat, etc. leaving me with my Blackberry so we could communicate with each other. And there I waited with the others thinking any minute someone would come and take me to my room where I would have dinner. I had not eaten anything all day long. I was fueled only by a cup of cafe creme in the morning and a couple of codeine tablets.

01 March 2009

Crippled American in Paris - Part Un

What a week we’ve had. On my way to meet Randy for an appointment last Tuesday, February 24th, I was racing down the Fontenay train station stairs with my briefcase when I lost my balance. I grabbed the railing in an attempt to recover, pulled my briefcase toward me, and ended up banging my face into the handrail and twisting my knee in a rotation that is not available for humans – only for dolls like Barbie and G.I.Joe. I screamed in pain and two teenage girls at the bottom of the stairs looked up and asked if I needed help. I said no and figured I’d just “walk it off” as I’ve done with many a sprain.

I went to take a step and I my left leg was like Jell-o. Jell-o on fire, that is. Childbirth pales in comparison to how excruciating that pain was. Just then, a woman approached me to ask if I was okay. I shook my head no. She helped me down the second half of the stairs and it was just impossible for me to go further. She told me I needed a doctor. I didn’t argue. She took my rolling briefcase, held my arm, and assisted me up the escalator back to the train station entrance. She lead me outside and pointed toward the medical clinic. She said it was close, but at that moment, in those circumstances, it seemed impossible to reach. Just then two men asked her in French what was happening, then the three of them spoke rapid fire in French, and the next thing I knew, the two men were carrying me to the medical office with the woman trailing behind with my briefcase. They took me to the receptionist, explained to her why they were depositing me there, and then all three wished me Bon Chance and Courage. I said merci repeatedly and thought they were the kindest French guardian angels a girl could have. I mean I was a sitting duck. Anyone could have run off with my briefcase (including laptop), my purse, my coat, my jewelry, the works and I would have been utterly helpless to defend myself. I wish I had their names so I could thank them personally for their kindness.

Once in the clinic, I called my insurance company to explain what had happened. They put a French speaker on the phone to talk to the receptionist. (I wanted to ensure I wasn’t at a pediatrician’s office and might end up waiting for hours in the wrong clinic.) They spoke with her and she assured them I was at the office of a General Practitioner who would see me in a few minutes. Meanwhile, I phoned Randy to let him know and he headed out to Fontenay on the RER A train. I couldn’t even tell him the name of the clinic, just the general area where it was relative to the train station. He persevered and after about 45 minutes, he arrived to save the day.

The clinic was old, small, dirty, and run down, but the doctor spoke good English. He said he was filling in for a doctor out sick. After examining my leg, he said he was fairly sure it was broken, but his clinic didn’t have an x-ray machine. Unfortunately, the radiology clinic was three blocks away, directly across the street from my company office. He sent Randy off to the pharmacy with an Rx for a leg brace, codeine, and an anti-inflammatory. He cup of tea and told me everything was going to be okay. He called the radiology team to let them know I was coming.

Meanwhile, at the pharmacy, Randy learned the pharmacist did not speak English. The customer just served, who was on his way out, offered to help. He translated as the pharmacist told Randy she couldn’t sell him the brace without me there to be fitted. Randy explained that I couldn't walk and was about the size of the pharmacist. Much debate took place until finally Randy prevailed and left with all the items the doctor ordered. Without the help of the friendly interpreter, this story would have taken a different turn.

When Randy returned, he and the doctor cinched my leg into the brace with eight Velcro straps and gave me the medicine. The doctor told us to wait 15 minutes for the pain killer to kick in and then to begin the long walk. Before we left, he gave us his bill – 40 euros. That’s it. We were amazed! And Randy paid only 72 euros for the brace and two prescriptions. Again, shockingly reasonable.

We hobbled ever so slowly to get the x-ray. Peeling my shoes, pants and socks off and then getting into position for the four x-rays was absolute torture. Pain at its highest peak. The radiologist came over when the film was developed and knelt down to look me in the eye. He said, “Mal, mal, mal.” (Translation - Bad, bad, bad.) Then the bill came – 52 euros. Randy ran the x-rays back to the doctor, as he directed, so he could read them and decide next steps. I stayed put in the waiting room. The doctor agreed with the radiologist's prognosis that the x-ray indicated a tibial plateau fracture. The doctor referred us to another, larger clinic about 10 minutes away by car. Randy returned and we walked across the street to my office where the receptionist called us a cab. I was still in my brace, feeling a bit better from the codeine, and wondering how I would cope with a cast. I travel all week long on trains and planes. Turns out that was the least of our worries.