Angie Gray - AVKGray@aol.com
By 2003, after 12 years of increasingly debilitating coccydynia, I was housebound and unable to sit at all. Praying that the sit/stand X-rays and a consultation with Dr Maigne might offer me a way forward, July last year saw me travelling from the UK to Paris lying down all the way (see posting Angie Gray, Travel Tips...)
It's still hard to take in that, with just one look at my X-rays, Dr Maigne immediately identified the problem (the largest spicule – bony growth – he had ever seen) and had no hesitation in recommending a coccygectomy.
Upon Dr Maigne's instructions, I had an MRI in the UK and was then introduced (via email) to the surgeon, Professor Doursounian (who, thankfully, speaks perfect English!). To save me an extra trip to Paris the Professor kindly suggested I had an initial assessment with a UK anaesthetist. That done, and with my op scheduled for 26th November (a few weeks later than it would normally have been due to the Professor's promotion and transfer to another hospital) the next big question was how best to travel, the return journey understandably causing me the most concern.
From my previous posting you'll see I travelled in the back of an estate car for my consultation with Dr Maigne. Whilst this worked very well for that trip, imagining how I might feel just having left hospital after the op, I seriously didn't like the idea of having to climb into the back of a car, getting out, walking to, and in all likelihood, having to queue for a toilet. I can say in hindsight that I was 100% right – the journey home needs to be as smooth and as comfortable as you can possibly make it!
Jon had put me in touch with someone else who had been to France for the op (and who has been an invaluable source of information, encouragement and support!); as she had travelled via private ambulance (covered by her medical insurance) I decided to investigate costs. With quotes ranging from £2600-£4000, as my op and all costs were being privately funded, this just wasn't on!
Campervan hire details
I then hit on the idea of hiring a campervan. This proved to be perfect, not only in terms of my comfort but also as accommodation for my partner who would be staying in Paris for the week I was in hospital.
Living in Bedford, we were pleased to find we could hire a campervan from MotorHolme (www.motorholme.co.uk), collecting it from Bourne, Cambs. (£1040 for 11 days, including insurance).
For anyone else considering this, I would recommend a trial run. Hiring it for a day beforehand enabled us to check I could get on board OK (the one we hired came with electrically powered retracting steps), that the 'bed' I would use was wide enough, that there was enough suspension to cope with the inevitable 'bumpiness' of the journey, etc – and also, of course, to check the driver would be comfy and confident enough to handle the trip!
On board the campervan/Eurotunnel
We took two large duvets to cushion me from the bumps and luggage straps to stop me from rolling about (also to act as seat belts in case we were stopped by the police!).
We travelled via Eurotunnel, which allows you to stay in your vehicle - as the campervan had its own toilet, once on, all I had to do was lie back and enjoy the ride!
Bedford to Paris (including Eurotunnel which cost £380 return) took approx. 9 hours.
Paris campsite/getting to the hospital
Camping du Tremblay (18 euros per night) is open all year (although the café is closed in Winter) and is only a 20 minute drive from the hospital. As parking in Paris is a nightmare, my partner was pleased to find (via regular buses from the campsite, a short train journey, and a brief walk) he could get from the campsite to the hospital in about 40 minutes.
Hospital admission – parking tips
The Saint Antoine Hospital is at 184 rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, 75012 Paris.
My partner went (by foot) the day before my admission to check it all out. This proved to be an excellent move as the hospital is huge and parking virtually impossible. Explaining our situation to the very helpful Admin. staff (you do need to speak some French if you are considering this trip!), he was given a car park permit for the next day. This saved a lot of aggravation in terms of parking and also meant he could drop me very near my ward (I would have struggled to make the long walk from the main reception).
As the purpose of this posting is to pass on my very positive experience of travelling to Paris via campervan I will close here. Before I do so, I will just add that, 8 weeks post-op, I'm thrilled to say that the horrendous stabbing coccyx pain has gone and I am making slow, steady progress.
I hope to make further postings to the site but would say that, if you are a suitable candidate for this surgery, do get to France if you possibly can. The hospital is spotless, the staff are cheerful and attentive, and the Professor is not only a highly skilled surgeon but an absolutely delightful person! I cannot speak more highly of my 'French experience' and it's just wonderful to already be feeling so much better and to be able to look to the future with a real sense of optimism.
PS. Thank you Jon for taking the time and caring enough to maintain this site – it's been a real life-saver!