Lately I have had an intimate glimpse at the public health system in France and that is worth noting down before I forget all the details of a quite insightful journey.
It was a little over a month ago now, that I was hiking in the mountains near Brea sur Roya with a guide. It was the weekend of the Fete de Nature and Jeanne and I had signed up for two hikes. Our Saturday guide was showing the four of us eager hikers the quite remarkable variety of spring flowering plants to be seen in and about the Parc de Mercantour, when I slipped on the trail.
|The top of the hike just minutes away from my fall, overlooking the valley of the Roya River|
Perhaps it wasn't the best idea to be going down a trail completely uprooted by wild boar, but that is what the ranger had realized when we started the descent and the group followed him without giving it much thought. After all we are all pretty used to loose shale and were being very careful, or so I thought.
And perhaps, not checking ones hiking boots before setting out is a bad idea , a "no excuse" excuse. For some reason, my very expensive pair of boots had badly deteriorated and halfway through the hike I had two soles flapping like "gossips in a washhouse. " I could barely proceed so I decided after lunch to rip the bottom part of the soles away and walk on the remaining soft foam surface. Mistake number two.
|The remaining shoe that made it home with me, even with the sole ripped off|
There were probably a few more factors in the mix, like using a hiking stick found by the trail that the ranger had handed me when he found out my shoes were faulty. Maybe the stick broke and I fell, or maybe I fell and then the stick broke. In any case when I went down, I knew I wasn't getting back down the mountain on my own two pins. My head was spinning and no amount of trying could get me into my boots again.
But not to worry, within a half hour I had been given the choice of a helicopter or 4 able bodied fireman to carry me down the mountain in a litter. Luckily the ranger had his cell phone all charged and ready with the numbers. Lesson number three!
As exciting as the helicopter sounded , I hardly thought I had a broken leg or needed the expense of such an exit so I asked for the firemen ( Pompiers) to come up from Brea to fetch me down.
I have to say that I couldn't have been more pleased by the handsome lot of young men who made it up the mountain ten minutes later; secured me in the litter (without touching my injured foot) and safely carried me down. In the end, the four were joined by the "grimper" team who usually are called only for expert climbers in trouble.
So I had eight strong, competent and amusing fellows at my side, never a cause for complaint. It was a bit scary to open my eyes and see the slope and distance to the valley below, so in the end I kept my eyes closed and was gently escorted to base camp which seemed like a long ways away.
The ambulance was waiting in Brea. I protested that a local doctor would do but they wouldn't hear of it so off I went with still another sterling volunteer firefighter, native of Brea, who kept me company and comfortable all the way to Menton, the nearest hospital.
So far 10 out of 10 for the French system. Stay with me…and we will follow this saga to the end.