This week I had to take a simple medical test. I’ve taken this one before in the UK where it wasn’t half as complicated as here in France. I’ve often said that you need to be fit to be ill in France because they expect you to do so many things once you feel poorly. For example, to get up and go to the doctor, when all you want to do is to lie in bed and recover; to then take a blood test that means getting up early before breakfast and queuing with other sick people at the laboratory where your blood is taken, then going back to the doctor for the results, getting a prescription, which means queuing again at the chemist. Yes, it takes stamina to be ill in France. 

            The instructions on the British National Health Service site for the test I needed to do are written as 5 concise bullet points. Number one is – take a clean container. In the UK this can be an empty  jar that has just come out of your dishwasher. In France, nothing is as simple. On leaving the doctors, it is necessary to go and queue at the laboratory in the ‘Haven’t made appointment line’  in order to be given a complete sterilized pack with 4 items in it and an A5 sheet full of instructions in small print. The container is not a simple jar with a lid, it is a plastic ‘flacon’ recipient with screw lid that for some reason has a sort of funnel that goes down into the jar. Am I supposed to fill this without opening the pot? That is the first dilemma. There is also a capped  test-tube with a small quantity of white powder in it. Do I fill this as well as the pot? 

             I have to supply a myriad of details on one side of the sheet, details I have never been asked for before, such as the policy number of my health insurance. That takes about 5 minutes of research.

            I must do the test first thing in the morning after a night of sleep during which my bladder will be awash with evidence that has collected overnight.

            Unfortunately, I fail at the first hurdle. I woke up in the early hours and couldn’t get back to sleep without a visit to the W.C. Failure number one. Will the test produce any useful result?

            Morning comes and I enter the bathroom with my kit. Our convenience hasn’t got any cupboards or surfaces on which to rest the plethora of bits and pieces so I lay them out on the floor. Clean myself with the wipe provided -‘lingette’, which I drop into the pan (later I see that I should have disposed of it in the ‘poubelle’ – bin). Fail again! Take plastic flacon, try not to fill it as the first ‘jet’ could be contaminated. It’s very difficult to stop after starting. Females are inclined to produce several ‘jets’ at the same time, which seem determined to miss the pot! Tell me if I am wrong, but I‘m sure these tests are designed by men, who don’t have numerous ‘jets’.

            I am not sure how much I need to produce and in spite of holding the pot to the light, turning it and squinting at it I can see no ‘Fill to here’ line.

            Then I have to take the test tube and push it head first into the funnel of the now closed pot. Magically, with a whoosh, the tube is full! How did that happen? Do I keep the rest of my efforts? Is this all that is required?

            I fill up the plastic envelope with both samples and 2 pieces of paper in the 2 different sized pockets (I told you it was complicated) and tell myself that after my shower I will take this to the lab and will be within the 4 hour window required. 

            After a leisurely shower I saw that my son in the UK was trying to contact us for a Facetime with our delightful little grandchildren, so a pleasant ¾ of an hour passed. When going to the laboratory came back to mind, I realised that it was now mid-day and the lab would be closed for lunch for the next hour and a half. Possible fail?

            At half-past one I was again in the ‘Hasn’t made an appointment’ queue with sample bag in hand. I was dreading responding to questions. When was the test done? ‘Vers 10h.’ Around 10 o’clock. Has it been stored ‘au frais’ –in a cool place? My reply was that it had been stored in a cold room. It is autumn here but the central heating does not come on all day so it was not in a warm or hot room. Pass or fail? I was not asked for more details.

            The results came through this morning straight to my computer. The test revealed nothing amiss, not even the presence of multiple dangerous bacteria picked up from spreading all the elements out over my bathroom floor.

            I have learned a lot including a new word ‘miction’ which I don’t think I will ever be able to use in conversation as it simply means ‘urination’. But, if it ever comes up in a test, I might pass.

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