When planning this year’s European tour, with two days off before the Paris suburb show, I thought I’d book band and crew time off in a lovely walled town in the French countryside just an hour and a half south of Paris: Provins, France. Unfortunately, I never got to see the town because my 9-day battle with high fever (103°, 104°, 104.7°F) needed to end. Thankfully, Hospital Léon Binet was just nine minutes from the hotel.
The emergency room doctor ran a thorough plethora of tests, diagnosed me with pneumonia, and admitted me into the hospital above for just “one or two days.” I’d never before had pneumonia, but I recall nursing Dave back to health after he’d contracted pneumonia during a Japanese tour. That had been his first bout with pneumonia, and I clearly remember him repeating that he felt like he was dying. I now know intimately why he felt that way. Pneumonia truly sucks.
Once admitted into my hospital room, I noticed the lovely view, which I counted on to lift my spirits each day. Outside my left window, just beyond the hospital grounds, I could see rolling countryside dotted with lush, wooded forest areas. My right window view featured a gem of a church–looked like a papal palace–just beyond a small patch of woods.
My roommate was a sweet little old lady (I’ll refer to her as “SLOL” from here on) who spoke not a word of English. I responded to the few phrases I recognized: “Fatigue?” (Tired?) Me: “Oui.” (Yes.) Every morning, and throughout the day, she would check with me: “Ça va?” (Are you OK?) To which I’d answer: “Oui, merci,” or “Ça va bien.” I only found out later that she has cancer and was there in pain, but she barely let on and continued her daily concern for me. She was a charmer, chatting up everyone who entered our hospital room, whether doctor, nurses, cleaning staff, or maintenance crew. And she let everyone (from staff to her visiting family) know that I was “américain.” SLOL put on a brave, friendly face each day that I was there–even to her husband, her daughter, and I presume it was her brother, all of whom visited daily and made a point to greet me, as well.
Unfortunately, the tour had to move on, so it was with many tears that Dave left me as he went to carry on with the shows. Of course, as the boss–the manager and the booking agent who had created the tour–I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Thankfully, Dave and I share the same work ethic. Anyone else would’ve likely thrown a tantrum, being left alone in a foreign hospital, but I have a business to run and fans very much looking forward to the shows. On with the show…
Some of you may have read my Facebook post about spending my birthday all alone in a French hospital. The nurses were so cute, and paraded into my room that morning singing “happy birthday” in English. It was a great start to a lonely day. Then SLOL’s daughter brought me an array of gorgeous desserts. Unfortunately, I still had little appetite, so I gave them to the nurses. John & Janine had a beautiful flower bouquet delivered to the hospital. The nurses apologized when they could only find a watering can to display the flowers. How French-country perfect was that?
There was only one nurse who spoke English well enough. The others marveled at my use of Google Translate, and they each soon downloaded the app to their phones. It was our savior!
I giggled every time I’d hear the nurses in the hallway speaking rudimentary English to each other. “Hello, how are you?” “Good morning!” “Breakfast.” “Hello. My name is ____. I am from France.” These are phrases they all learned in school at age 10, but when you don’t consistently use a language (and they never had the need in Provins), you lose it.
One nurse tricked another by instructing her to tell me “happy meal” instead of “bon appétit” when she delivered my lunch. She was so embarrassed when I explained that that’s a McDonald’s meal.
Patricia, the nurse who spoke the most English, told me that brie cheese (one of my faves!) is from Provins. So after my second breakfast of baguette with butter and jam, I asked a different nurse if I could have some brie, to which she replied, “cheese?” From that day on, that nurse made sure I had cheese at breakfast. I could hear her every morning in the hallway instructing the staff, as I recognized “l’Américain” and “fromage.” These nurses were truly wonderful.
Bowl of tea, anyone? My first morning waking up in a French hospital, I was a bit miffed when they delivered a bowl of tea with my breakfast. I had to immediately look this up online, as it’s not something we see in the States. And I’ll be damned, it’s a French thing! And what a brilliant idea. We use mugs for our morning tea/coffee/hot chocolate. They go bigger! Apparently, only for breakfast, though, then it’s back to cups the rest of the day. I just may be integrating this into my life when I get home. A bowl of chai in the morning seems way more appealing to me than a mere cup. 😉
Mmm, fresh baguette. Every meal in this French hospital included fresh baguette. This gave me great joy! l always remember how much Phil loved fresh bread–it was one of his most favorite things; so I couldn’t help but think of him when I saw that hunk of fresh baguette at each meal. This’ll sound strange, but most of the food at this hospital was quite tasty, although, I had little appetite. They served loads of fresh, well-seasoned vegetables and juicy, ripe fruits. Cheese and baguette and juicy pear = pure heaven to me. Awesome. Now if only I could’ve enjoyed some great French wine with it.
Which toilet? They had a busy morning regimen at the hospital. And I quickly learned that toilet has more than one meaning. My first morning (after my first-ever “bowl” of tea), when the nurses came in to change the sheets, they held out a fresh hospital gown stacked with some other fabrics and asked, “toilet?” I wondered, did they want me to go into the toilet to wait until the linens on my bed had been changed? I immediately Googled it and after perusing several sites, I learned that “toilet” can also mean outfit or getting cleaned/groomed.
I love my Android and T-Mobile. I could so easily look up everything on my phone with decent speeds. Thank goodness for T-Mobile’s awesome unlimited international data plan. If I was with any of the other US carriers, my phone bill would’ve been higher than my mortgage payment. T-MO rules. If you’re planning a trip to Europe, change carriers now and thank me later.
My “one to two days” in hospital turned into six. And so six days later, I was finally released from hospital on Tuesday evening. SLOL asked when I would “sortie?” (exit.). I didn’t have to answer, as her husband responded, “Ce soir.” (Tonight.). She looked at me at mock-cried. When I finally did depart, she blew me about a million kisses. What a sweet, sweet lady.
A heartfelt thanks to the doctors and many nurses (Patricia, in particular, who comforted me with her excellent English) at Hospital Léon Binet in Provins, France. They got me on my feet again with enough strength (barely) to rejoin Dave and the boys on tour. Nothing felt better than being reunited with my husband.
And another massive thanks to my dear friend who trekked over from the UK to collect me from hospital and return me to the tour, which had just arrived in the UK.
It’s been a very difficult European tour this year, with Leonard passing just as we arrived in Europe to begin the tour, Tom passing near the end of the tour, and me being hospitalized with pneumonia in the middle. But the shows and the fans have been great, turning out in full force. My boys, of course, have been giving their all onstage every night, as always. Thank you to the fans for your support, and for keeping the band lifted during this emotional rollercoaster.
Unfortunately, pneumonia has a bitch of a long recovery time, so I’ll continue to rest in each hotel and skip the shows, unless and until I happen to feel well enough or have enough strength to venture out. It’s killing me to be resting and not working, and it pains me to burden Dave with the added tasks of my daily workload as manager, tour manager, and booking agent. But I know that rest is the answer. I’ll be good, as I have no desire to land back in hospital, thank you very much. This was my first experience with pneumonia and my first-ever hospital stay. I could happily live without ever having to repeat either again.