Our Experience at the American Hospital of Paris

Last week, my 7 year-old son had his tonsils removed at the American Hospital of Paris. It's a private, non-profit hospital just outside of Paris, and we chose it because that's where the specialist he had been seeing has hospital privileges. Although it's not officially part of the French health care system, it is regulated and has a great reputation.

We have insurance coverage from my husband's employer rather than the French health card, so while a portion of the expenses were covered, we had to pay a percentage of the fees. Coming from the Canadian system where everything is covered, and hearing about the high cost of health care in the United States, I was concerned that the fees would be outrageous, but they weren't. That's the whole non-profit aspect at work, I guess.

This was the first time my son has had surgery, and it was also our first experience with a hospital in France, so I was nervous about the whole deal. I had my tonsils taken out as a kid, so I know what the procedure entails, but I think it's always difficult watching your own kids suffer. We had our first appointment with the anesthesiologist the week before the surgery, and I got my first look at the hospital.

Located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the building is set in a leafy suburb and is fairly modern.  Staff at the information desk speak several languages, and many of the nurses and other hospital staff do as well, although of course the primary language spoken is French. The first day we were in and out in about an hour, which was a great experience. We met with the doctor, my son went to the lab to have some blood taken, and then we grabbed something to eat before heading home.

The day of the surgery we were checked in by a friendly woman who gave us a book of information and then we were escorted to our son's room to wait. Unlike other times I've been in the hospital, we had the chance to settle in to the private room before the surgery, rather than waiting in a huge waiting room until it was over. The room was clean and had a large window that opened, as well as a private bathroom with a shower, internet connection, and a television with several channels. My son showered and got dressed in his hospital dress, then we waited for him to be wheeled into surgery.

All went well, and it wasn't long before we were invited to the recovery room to see him. The nurses were very kind, and they even let him in on a little secret- that a few Paris Saint Germain soccer players lived in the immediate vicinity of the hospital. It brightened his mood and he kept looking out the window, hoping to somehow catch a glimpse.

The original plan was for him to stay overnight and be released the next day, but he had a fever that they couldn't get to stay down, and so he stayed for two nights instead. The hospital has a policy that children under a certain age must have a parent or guardian stay with them overnight, so I was there the whole time. Since he is a child and my stay was mandatory, they provided me with a guest bed (not one of those chairs, but a real bed!) as well as three meals a day at no extra charge.

I was able to choose from a crazy menu of things like lamb and roast turkey for lunch and dinner, and my breakfast was pastries, juice, yogurt, and coffee. I was well-fed. As for my son, one of the things we always worry about is making sure his gluten free diet can be accommodated, and I'm very happy to say that it wasn't a problem. They had a comprehensive menu of gluten free items to choose from each day, although unfortunately for him he wasn't really up to enjoying! He did get to eat a ton of ice cream, though, so he wasn't complaining.

Overall, our experience at the hospital was a positive one. Every hospital employee we came in contact with was kind, patient, and seemed happy to be there. They were all very sweet to my son, and explained everything to him. It was in stark contrast to the harried, overworked nurses I've often come across at hospitals in Canada. I realize that the American Hospital is a private hospital, and as such the patient to nurse ration is much lower than in public hospitals, but it really made me realize just how stretched to the limit public hospital workers are in so many places. It's important to have health care workers who have the necessary resources and appropriate workload to do their jobs to the best of their ability, rather than to be stretched to the limit, overworked, and pulled in a thousand directions at once. The employees we came in contact with worked hard but didn't seem to be overwhelmed and exhausted, which frankly is a good thing.

I was nervous about sending my son for surgery in Paris, but aside from the regular stress one experiences when a child is being operated on, I couldn't have asked for a better overall experience than the one I had at the American Hospital. I am happy we made the choice to have our son's first (and hopefully only!) operation done there.