jeudi 23 février 2012

The Papaya Miracle Cure

In some ways, French society is one of the most rational in the Western world. French thought process is inherently Cartesian, their educational system relies on a strong base in mathematics, and the country graduates more engineers than all other disciplines combined.

But push open the door of a medical professional here and you'd think all these folks had graduated from the Dr. Bombay school of medicine.

In an ongoing quest to alleviate my foot pain, I'd been referred out to get some custom orthodics as well as physical therapy. "This will speed the healing," my surgeon assured me.

So last week I went to get my foot "read" for the orthodics. Dr M. received me in his office, which was also his living quarters.  He had me walk across the room. "You are limping," he observed.

"Yes. My foot hurts."

He then asked me to step up onto a translucent platform which was set above a mirror. If this was some kind of trick to see up my skirt, he was out of luck. I was wearing trousers.

After constating that I was 'a heel walker' (and what biped is not?), he motioned for me to lay down on his examining table, saying he'd fix it all up with a little infra-red. I stuck out my foot towards the machine, wondering if it would turn my appendage into a spy with superpowers.

Several boring minutes later (spent staring at the dust-encrusted cornices of his curlycue'd ceiling), he pulled out from a wooden box The Sacred Black Mystical Healing Shroud (In reality, a torn and fraying piece of dark fabric which was as filthy as the ceiling). With this he wrapped my foot tightly and told me to repose myself for a bit. He left the room. (Surely to check on the state of the rôti de veau which I could smell from his apartment-office).

"Feeling better?" he inquired as he reentered the room.

"Um. Too early to tell." I got off the table and walked around the room. "Nope. Still hurts. But I do believe I see the image of Jesus now imprinted on my sole."

He inked my feet and I pressed them onto a piece of paper. He told me to return in a week's time to pick up the inserts. I limped out of his flat, craving roast meat.


That afternoon I was scheduled to visit Dr. K, the kinétherapeute. These professionals are a hybrid of masseurs, chiropractors, weight management charlatans counselors, and occupational therapists. It is a branch of paramedicine which is viewed as entirely legitimate and is indeed reimbursed by French National Health. The State benefits used to be quite generous towards these practitioners: when I had my first baby in 1995, I was entitled to 6 weeks of sessions with one; sessions completely devoted to firming up my abdomen and pelvic floor so I would be primed and a ready-contender to recontribute to France's natality rate. I even got the State to send me to a post-natal spa for a week!

"You have a unique last name," Dr. K began. "I only know of one other [my last name]: the famous cyclist."

Me: "Yes. He was a cousin of my former husband."

Dr. K:"Really? I was his masseur on his Tour de France win. It is thanks to me, and my diagnosis that he was lacking in magnesium, that he won that year."

Me: "Hmmm. It's a real shame he committed suicide later."

Dr. K: "Yes. A little problem with the Armagnac."

Me: "I guess the magnesium can't cure everything, right?"

He instructed me to disrobe and walk across the room.

"You are limping."

"Yes, my foot hurts. I'm here for my foot."

He stood behind me and pressed his fingers into those dimples that ride above one's buttocks. He pronounced my morphology "lucky." This was followed by a lengthy pseudo-scientific explanation of the two types of female morphologies: the "unlucky" mediterranean one--where the woman's hips spread out to all southern European countries once she has given birth, never to snap back--and mine, the "lucky" Nordic frame, which Dr. K judged I possess (despite my being descended from a long line of overweight Eastern European peasants). "These are women with no hips, but the baby makes them carry their fat in the stomach. Once you get to your goal weight, you will see! It all snaps back!"

I glanced down at my sad and flabby lower abdomen, thinking that this man is at best, deranged; at worst, a snake-oil salesman. My latter intuition was confirmed as he continued:

"You know, if you wanted to spot reduce I can send you to a Nutritionist. I had a young patient who had a very impressive poitrine.  [He glances at my bare breasts.] Her mother told me that she was planning to take her daughter to a surgeon to have a breast-reduction performed. I send her to The Nutritionist. Six weeks later--what a miracle! La fille avait fondue! (The girl had melted!)  All from a papaya-based diet!"

"Why would I want to abolish my only asset?" I asked. "And honestly, do you truly believe that eating a specific food will eliminate fat from one part of the body?"

"I don't know how it works," Dr. K mused, "but it works."

Dr. K continued to share his vast knowledge of the body and its workings while he massaged my back (and foot, eventually). It would have been very nice had he shut up. 10 minutes later he told me to get up and get dressed and asked for 55 euros.

"Can we concentrate a little more on my foot?" I asked him as I wrote out his check. "My surgeon wrote the prescription for ultra-sound therapy with you."

"Of course! But I don't believe in ultra-sound." He pointed to an odd-looking, dial-filled machine on a stand by the massage table.

"Next time we will do magnets!"

8 commentaires:

  1. It's really quite amazing how little alternative medicine is valued here in North America while France seems to be teeming with charlatans.

    Oh, for the happy medium.

    Hope your foot feels better soon. (I'm doing Pilates for my completely wonky body.)

    BTW, those two little dimples on your back are called the SI joints--sacro-illiac. I know because I suffer (to paraphrase Descartes).

    1. I had no idea those dimples were joints. It makes sense that he massaged them, then. I guess.

  2. Gulp. You are scaring me! I have my first (and only) foot surgery scheduled for Tuesday in Paris! And yes, I have seen all of these "doctors" and decided to go straight to the American Hospital afterwards for a sound diagnosis. No one spent any time looking at my bare breasts or massaging my back, so I figured this was a good sign... :)

    1. The American Hospital is a fine place; I had my first child there, back when times were flush (couldn't afford it now!!). The best thing about it is that the "codes" are looks and acts like a hospital in America. That is not the case in the French public health system, but that doesn't mean the latter is not good. In fact, my experience in the French health system--I've had major orthopedic trauma surgery at Pompidou--was the actual care was top-notch. The peripherals not so much. But really, what we want is good, competent care when in hospital; whether or not the sheets are comfortable is less important.

      Wishing you all the best for your foot suurgery.

  3. The experience, I and everybody I know
    who've doctored with chiropracters, alternative
    meds and fill-in-the-blank counselers, have
    encountered nothing but charlatans. We're talking
    lame, heavy duty bullshit artists. Quack quack quack.
    Had to chuckle over the latest miracle food.
    It changes every few months. Now its Papayas.
    Was grapefruits, then avocados, then flax
    seeds, pomegranates, on and on. And if they
    mention the word omega, just say no and storm out.

    1. The best snake-oil you'll see in French pharmacies is the ointment made from snail slime. Seriously. Ask for it--"bave d'escargot". All in a fancy tub and everything! I can't recall what its "curative" properties are, but I guarantee you'll be 25 euros lighter after purchasing it.