Saturday, September 15, 2007

Corsica: Rivers and Hospitals

Corsica is home to many magnificent rivers which flow out of the high mountains in the centre of the island, and which are popular destinations for Corsicans who head there to spend days in the sun. They build dams across the rivers, creating little lochans to which people come in their droves to sunbathe, dive, climb and picnic.

It was at one of these river-pools that I made a valiant attempt to be a good and dutiful husband and father - which went sadly and horribly wrong. My wife had been swimming in the Great Septic Sea, and so naturally was nursing an unhappy stomach - so I took the kids out for the day. We found a nice gorge, (below) and climbed down into it with the intention of building a dam, and having a dip in the resulting pool. Following a nice ice-cream in a cafe, we carried picnics, sun-cream, hats and little daughter down into the gorge, and the fun began. Boris worked well, standing in the river, taking the dam construction project very seriously, Doris took off her sandals and splashed up and down in the shallow water, while Norris worked away too, fetching rocks from the banks and carrying them down into the water for Boris to add to the wall. Our dam was taking splendid shape, starting to rise in height across a narrow section of the river bed, and holding back a good amount of water, when... the still mountain air was split by a searing scream which echoed and amplified off the rocky gorge-walls around us.

I spun round to see young Norris (who else?) sitting on top of a boulder, clutching his foot and screaming. I was about to rebuke him for the dreadful noise when I saw that the beautiful pure-white boulder he was perched on was running with his deep, red blood which was pumping from his toe. The rock he had dropped onto his sandled toes had lifted his big-toe-nail right up in the air, it was barely connected to his toe at all - and blood was venting from it.

He was unable to walk, little Doris was too small to climb out of the gorge, and there is no way I could carry both of them. Boris, however sprung to the rescue - gaining ten years of maturity in less than ten minutes, he gathered up his little sister and carried her to the top of the gorge, and stayed with both of them while I ran for the car. "Don't worry if I am car sick, drive as fast as you can!" he said. I did.

The A&E department at Porto Vecchio was .... different. They refused to try and re-set the nail, they refused to allow time for anesthetic to work and just yanked the nail out with pliers. The worst of it though was that the doctor who did it, not only was wearing old boots and jeans, but had a moustache which started under his nose in the conventional manner, but then on reaching the corners of his mouth turned downwards and headed for the bottom of his chin. Once reaching the base of the chin, each end of the magnificent moustache then hung three or four inches below his chin resting on his shirt. I quite fancy growing one myself, next holiday maybe!

We were very grateful to Lord and Lady Lucan who uncannily were on hand at the hospital to translate for us, and to look after Norris and Doris while we were in the A&E. They were only there because their hire-car had brken down.

Young Norris is fine, and is now showing the first signs of re-growing his big-toe-nail. What we were impressed with however was the country's "Good Samaritan Law" which states that it is your legal duty to render assistance to anyone you see in trouble. The cafe where I left the three kids while I ran to the car, not only sprayed his foot with a sterile Iodine solution, but wrapped it up to keep it clean too. Without this he could have had significant infection and lots more problems. We went back for ice-creams the next day, to thank them and show off his dressings and limp!


Endlessly restless said...

At one level it's disappointing that a "Good Samaritan Law" is needed. But then again, maybe our own society could benefit from one - and at my optimistic extreme - maybe it's a law that would never actually need to be enforced!

Glad to hear that the toe-nail is making a comeback.

That Hideous Man said...

I saw a TV documentary a few years ago in which they had an actor pretend to have a heart-attack and filmed the public's reaction.

The results were fascinating. While there were both many people who stopped to help and many who 'walked on by'; it revealed something of the decision making process by which people evaluated which reaction to take.

This became obvious when they started altering the way that the victim looked. So if he was wearing a LiverpoolFC shirt, and was found collpased as the KOP emptied he was many-more times likely to be assisted than if was wearing an Everton shirt (and vice versa at Goodison Park). The same applied with Glasgow's famous rival teams!

It seems that the passer-by decides to act on the basis of something shared in common with the victim; the closer the identification the higher % of people helped.

It revealed that our shared common humanity is an insufficient identification for many people to turn good intent into positive action.

steg said...

What happens if someone renders assistance that goes wrong/is counter productive? My understanding of the law here is that off duty medics and the like worry about getting sued if anything goes wrong and so some are reluctant to get involved. If a good Samaritan law with protection/insurance against possible suing could be enforced it might be no bad thing.

That Hideous Man said...

Medical insurance in the UK specifically excludes good samaritan acts.

As I understand it, the off-duty doctor can be liable for being sued by a victim if they perceive to have been damaged/insifficently helped; likewise the doctor cannot get any compensation of they were to be damaged in any way by the encounter, either in terms of entering a dangerous crash scene or contracting infection through handling infected persons without the safety equipment present in an A&E or carried by paramedics.

This 'anti-good-samaritan' situation puts medics in a very difficult situation. The words they dread hearing are, "Ladies and Gentlemen, is there a Dr on this flight/train/ferry.....?"

steg said...

If you join the Red Cross/St Johns Ambulance etc and have an up to date first aid qualification then they insure you, but it's quite a few evening classes to get the certificate and doesn't really solve the problem for qualified medics who don't really need that extra evening class........The bizarre thing is that I could do a first aid course, have no practical experience mess up and be insured, whiclst an experienced medic could be sued.

How does it work in Corsica if someone makes a /mistake?

That Hideous Man said...

I don't know. Maybe they just haven't imported 'litigation culture' from the US like we seem to have.

The USA spends more per head on healthcare than any other nation - yet gets least value for money from its spend, simply due to the burden of legal defence funds, high lawyers fees and vast compensation pay-outs. Apparently if the weight of the legal-bills attached to health care could be removed, they could more than fund health-care for all with the difference.