Thursday, September 01, 2005


Only as she was telling me to put my clothes back on did the nurse think to ask me a question. “You are going to be here in ten days, aren’t you?” No, I told her, I was just in Atlanta for the week. She shrugged and told me to go to my neighborhood urgent care center in ten days to have the stitches taken out.

My neighborhood urgent care center? Did France even have those?

When I got back to Paris the following Monday, I came into the office with two questions ready for my colleagues. How do you say ‘stitches’, and where do I go to get them removed?

The answer came from Kamila: “Les points de suture. The hospital.”

The hospital. I apparently didn’t have any choice in the matter. If I waited too long, my mom said, the skin would grow over the stitches. Gross. I looked up the hospital nearest to my house and set out on the tenth day.

On my way to the hospital, I worked out the speech in my head. I reviewed my medical and stitches-related vocabulary, and thought of the various ways the conversation could play out. I should have known better. My fictive conversations never come out accurate.

I got to the hospital, and walked in. Jackpot: a reception desk, and just the place to put my speech into action.

Emily: Hello.
Receptionist: Hello.
Emily: I don’t know if I’m in the right place for this, but I have three stitches in my back, and I need to get them removed.
Receptionist: Do you have a prescription?

And with that, my imagined conversation was already thrown off the mark. I tried again.

Emily: No, you don’t understand, I have stitches. I need them taken out.
Receptionist: Do you have a prescription?
Emily: What?
Receptionist: You need a prescription to have stitches taken out.
Emily: No I don’t.
Receptionist: Yes you do.
Emily: Really?
Receptionist: It’s the law.

Emily: Well I don’t have a prescription.
Receptionist: Then there is nothing we can do for you. Have a good day.
Emily: Wait! My skin will grow and cover my stitches!
Receptionist: Then I suggest you get a prescription.

Emily: Okay, but is it okay if it’s in English?
Receptionist: I don’t understand.
Emily: I got the stitches in the United States, and so the prescription will be in English.
Receptionist: (in English) Help!

This, too, was particularly unexpected. Then the reference became clear.

Emily: Excuse me?
Receptionist: Help! I need somebody! Not just anybody!
Emily: Umm…
Receptionist: (in English) Okay, I do it. Come with me. (in French) I’ll take out the stitches, but I’ll have to do it for free, so there will be no record of your being here.
Emily: That’s nice of you to offer. But shouldn’t a nurse take out the stitches?
Receptionist: I am the nurse.

Sure enough, the receptionist/nurse led me past the waiting room into a treatment room, where she took out the stitches. Since I knew it would be free, I was expecting some sort of rapid to-go service, but instead, she pulled out the crunchy paper, had me lie down, got out all her tools, and did a slow and thorough job. This, I know, because she kept me updated the whole time, even commenting on the thickness of American stitching thread.

It was beautiful. Until the very end.

Nurse: Oh, hm. Did you know that you’re allergic to [insert unknown vocabulary]?
Emily: What?
Nurse: You are allergic to [repeat unknown vocabulary].
Emily: Oh… okay.

I have no idea what I’m allergic to, but my guess is a special kind of thread used for stitches. Oh well… they’re gone, and now I know where to go for free, illegal medical care. Vive la France.


At 8:17 PM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Too funny.

I can't imagine needing a 'script to have stitches removed.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger noricum said...

Hmmm... other possibilities are you're allergic to latex (in the gloves she was likely wearing), or something like iodine, or such, used to clean where the stitches were taken out.

If you're allergic to iodine, you're probably also allergic to shellfish, and if you're allergic to latex, you'll probably notice a tingling in your lips when you blow up balloons.

You might want to get tested when you're back in the US.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Sierra said...

You had to fly with stitches in your back? That doesn't sound like fun.

I think your colleague misinformed you. You can just go to your neighbourhood nurse to get stitches removed, you don't need to go to a hospital. I didn't need a prescription either.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Ludivine said...

What hospital was this? Not that I need free and illegal urgent medical care; I just like to keep my options open...

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Randi said...

I probably missed something along these lines, but what are the stitches for?

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Neha said...

Exactly... what were the stiches for?

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Emily said...

The stitches were from one of the following incidents:

1. Heroic accident
2. Outrageous fall while climbing
3. Run-in with neighborhood tiger
4. Local gang warfare
5. Nicolas stabbed me
6. Potential cancer spot from sun

I'll let you ponder.

At 5:33 AM, Blogger nana said...

i think nicolas stabbed you!

At 7:40 PM, Blogger chells12345 said...

Hi im chells...i was jus lookin at these on the internet cuz like my cat jus attacked my arm its been bleeding for over an hour and there reallyy deep cuts!....they are swollen to so i was wondering if i should of gone to the hospital lol;........But i liked your article ive had so many stitches it doesnt even matter any more from biopsys and stuff im only 12 and have have over 5 biopsys preformed! since january this the way nick stabbed u i think:P lol


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