Archive for October, 2012

Fierce furry feline

Posted in Cats at 15:25

Meow everyone. My human has been engrossed in sewing something she calls a “cape” lately. I don’t quite understand why so much effort is put into something already deliciously warm and comfortable, I mean she’s just going to wrap herself in it anyway, but then humans are a mysterious lot.

Today she took some photos of me and asked if I would comment them. Apparently there’s a day called “Halloween” soon. On top of everything, not only do I get a human who takes perfectly good wool and cuts it up, she has to be interested in quaint pagan rituals that no one else even celebrates where she lives. But she’s very nice and snuggles whenever I want, so here you go.

Kanoko naps

I was having a lovely nap when miss human came up, snorfled my tummy, nommed my paws, and then turned the light on to take photos.

Kanoko yawns

“Aaaaaaarrr!” I told her, but she laughed at how cute my “yawn” was.

Be-fanged yawn

“Grrrr! See my fangs and claws!” I tried to insist.

Kanoko sighs

Alas, all for nought.

Hospitalization in Nice

Posted in La France at 21:12

Kanoko checks out the statements

It’s been nearly three months since my hospitalization for what turned out to be an infection of my right parotid gland; statements from the assurance maladie (national health insurance, also called sécurité sociale or sécu for short) just arrived a few days ago. As you can see, Kanoko made sure everything was set up right for photographing.

This time was my first in a private hospital, the Clinique Saint George in Nice, which is consistently ranked the top in the country, besting even Paris hospitals. I was a bit wary of whether or not their rates would be more than the sécu plus my mutuelle would reimburse, but it turns out that they were very reasonable indeed. This is likely because they have a large wing dedicated to a high-profit practice, namely plastic surgery. This is the French Riviera, after all.

I photographed the parts of my statement that dealt with the hospitalization.
   Hospitalization statement, part 1   Hospitalization statement, part 2   Hospitalization statement, part 3

The statements don’t have everything in the true chronological order, nor do all of the items concern the ER, so I’ve explained things a bit in this summary, which follows the order as printed:
– ORL, 45 euros. I paid him out of pocket (as is usual) the day after being hospitalized, and would have been reimbursed 16.10. This is probably listed first since it was one of only two expenses I actually paid (also normal), and so the sécu used it and the other to subtract several base “contributions”, as they call them – part of helping the sécu budget problems. Thus 1 euro of my 45-euro check went towards the ORL, another 5 euros towards pharmacy costs, 1 euro towards the ultrasound of my cheek at the hospital, and 1 more to a doctor consultation at the hospital. In all, I was “only” reimbursed 8.10, and my mutuelle covered the rest.
– The médecin généraliste (GP) was in fact my first stop: 23 euros is the base rate set by the sécu for GPs. Since they’re independent, they can charge whatever they want, although most stick with the base rate. I paid her out of pocket as well, and would have been reimbursed 16.10, yet again the sécu subtracted a few contributions: 50 cents to another pharmacy expense, 2 euros towards blood analyses done at the hospital, twice 50 cents to nurse care at the hospital, and another 3 and 4 euros towards more blood tests. I was reimbursed 4.60, my mutuelle covered the rest.

Keeping track of what I actually paid, in total (including what’s to follow, since the base contributions were for that): 18.50 euros. Now for the rest of the statements.

– The 06/07 (6th of July) wasn’t part of hospitalization, so we’re now at the 24/07, for when I went back to my GP to let her know how things had gone at the hospital and ORL, and to ask for a medical leave from work since the medication I’d been given was, to put it politely, kicking me in the behind. (As a reminder, medical leaves from work are paid in France, and are not limited, although things start to change for leaves that last more than 2 years, such as for cancers or severe depression.) Another pharmacy contribution was tacked on for 50 cents.
– Now we finally get to the ER! The “FORF. ACCUEIL URG.” refers to the fee charged for setting foot in the emergency room. Now, this was at the top private clinic in the country, keep that in mind: they charged 25.32 euros. Spelled out, because as an American I know how unbelievable it can seem: twenty-five euros and thirty-two cents. I didn’t pay anything out of pocket that day. The sécu reimbursed the hospital 80% of it, or 20.26, and my mutuelle covered the rest.
– The “ECHO OU DOPPLER” was the ultrasound at the hospital, which was charged at 37.80 euros. I’ll spell it out again: thirty-seven euros and eighty cents. Also reimbursed 80% to the hospital since I didn’t pay when there; as you saw above, the base contribution of 1 euro was merely subtracted from an expense that I did pay out of pocket. The hospital was thus reimbursed for 30.24 and my mutuelle took care of the rest.
– The ER doctor who looked at me charged 58 euros, an evening rate (it was 7 or 8pm by then). It was reimbursed to the hospital: 46.40 euros from the sécu and the rest from my mutuelle.
– On to the second photo. There’s a bunch of unrelated costs to skip here, all the way down to the last item on the 21/07, a week’s worth of antibiotics: 35.30 euros, which I didn’t pay for at the pharmacy, as is common practice here. The sécu reimbursed them for 28.95 of it, my mutuelle the rest.
– Now we’re on the third photo. On 23/07 I got something (forgot what…) the ORL had prescribed, again nothing directly at the pharmacy, for 4.33 euros of which the sécu reimbursed 2.81 and my mutuelle the rest.
– Then there are three “ACTE BIOLOGIE” or blood tests. A lab took several vials of blood and ran different tests on them, charging 21.60, 32.40, and 41.85 respectively, and each time with a nursing fee of 4.73. The sécu reimbursed the lab 66.03 euros of it, and (as you’ve guessed by now) my mutuelle, the rest.
– Finally, on 24/07 I went to the pharmacy yet again for pain meds, this time ones that my GP had prescribed. 4.98 euros, as usual nothing directly at the pharmacy, of which 1.49 was reimbursed to them by the sécu and the rest, by my mutuelle.

So there you have it. An evening trip to a private ER with an ER doctor checkup plus ultrasound and blood tests, then a visit to an ORL, two visits to a GP, and a few pharmacy expenses, all added up to 18.50 euros from my bank account. Eighteen euros, fifty cents.

In France you won’t hear people complain about part of our taxes going towards our universal health care system, and this is just one telling example why. Also, for those interested, three years ago I wrote about the basics of health care in France.

Gardening in October

Posted in Gardening at 18:58

Cambria (Odontoglossum) orchid

With a northern exposure and on an inner courtyard, my patio has a sort of micro-climate that differs from Nice’s in general. Humidity tends to stick around, there’s no hot direct sun, and it doesn’t cool off as much in the evenings either. I haven’t had any luck growing the usual shade plants that need regular watering, and there’s just not enough sun for most native species to thrive. Both types of plants simply rot from the humidity, since they’re not able to dry out with the help of drier air or hot sunlight.

It took me a while to find something colorful that does well, and I discovered it on a whim, not at all out of research or planning. Back in May, I crossed a display of orchids for sale in my local supermarket. There had been plenty of such displays over the years, but for once, a plant caught my eye, and I bought it for its colors. One of the reasons I’d avoided orchids for so long is that I’d heard they were difficult to care for, but I figured with all the plants I had lost over the years, I might as well give a pretty one a shot, and though supermarket plants aren’t ideal, at least it was less expensive than orchids elsewhere. I finally looked up orchid care, and was delighted to find out that they thrive in high humidity, loose soil, and indirect sunlight. Mine kept its flowers for several months, all the way through August, and has been growing very happily on my patio. Ever since, I’ve looked more seriously at orchids in garden and flower shops, discovering this one yesterday afternoon at a yearly outdoor market put on by local shops.

Cambria (Odontoglossum) orchid

This is a Cambria, which is a generic name for hybrids; this one is related to Odontoglossum. Its deep colors are a great autumn addition. Today I repotted its big sister, the Phalaenopsis, and planted the daffodil and iris bulbs I’ve had for several years now. While the irises and daffodils grow well enough on my patio, they don’t always bloom, so I’m really going to be gung-ho about attractive orchids from here on out! Color is so nice to have in a garden. Greens are also great, and I have plenty with my succulents and now some new air plants, also found at the market yesterday.

Tillandsia - ionantha and bulbosa

An Ionantha rubra on the left and a fun Bulbosa on the right, on top of my very happy hanging succulent. Air plants are also called tillandsia.

Patio table - October 2012

My patio table holds most of my smaller plants, to keep them out of the reach of curious, playful paws. That’s also why you see broken pot pieces on one corner… it keeps Miss Sprightly Susu from jumping onto the table and nosing around the plants – she likes to take apart succulents. The plant with the huge green leaves is that same Phalaenopsis! I can’t wait to see its next blossoms. There’s also a large pot on the right with a small aloe vera plant, one I found thanks to some cultivated aloe vera in Sophia Antipolis growing too many shoots for their own good – I was able to take this small shoot home.