What should we do in a medical emergency?

Hi there… does anyone have the lowdown on what we should do in the event of a medical emergency in the home ???

From today’s experience, things have obviously changed since I last called out the Pompiers…:disappointed:

Just wondering how the rest of you have fared… any Medics amongst you should be able to lay down the law on what we should do and when… etc

Please be kind… it has been a long, traumatic day…:tired_face:

What has happened???

Normally just call 15, 17 or 18 and pompiers come. Don’t think anything has changed.

Ditto, is everything alright?

Firstly… I am fine… just exhausted… and my elderly neighbour is safely in hospital…but what a battle we had to get her there …

My friends do not have much French so I did the phoning… I favoured Pompiers, but friends were sure SAMU would be best… so…

I phoned 15 SAMU: told them the situation… their reply…No Ordonnance, no ambulance.
We spoke with Doc: Tell SAMU she must go to hospital immediately and that I am sending them the ordonnance asap
I phoned SAMU: they still say, no ordonnance, no ambulance…but we will speak with Doc…
Doc phones us: I have spoken with SAMU. You have to find an ambulance yourself… phone these numbers… and if all fails, phone SAMU or Pompiers.
I phoned everyone: NO ambulances were available… so phoned Pompiers…who passed me back to SAMU
SAMU: Yes, we have spoken with Doc… but… no ordonnance, no ambulance… yes, we know his is not in his surgery.

During this last conversation… I very nearly lost my cool… anyway… my final words must have hit the right note, as I more or less said… “This lady must go to hospital urgently. I have been speaking with you for over an hour, while her situation is worsening. You know I cannot find an ambulance anywhere. Her Dr has told you she must go to hospital urgently and that he is sending you the ordonnance…and while you wait for the ordonnance to arrive, you will do nothing… even though you know it is quite likely that this lady will die during this delay… Is this what you are telling me??”

more clicking on the line… and she suddenly came back and said those magic words… the ambulance is on its way !

Amazingly, it arrived in 5 minutes… and they swiftly stabilised the patient… then off and away… Phew…

At the hospital… the staff (as always) were so kind and gentle…as they did tests etc etc…apologising to her when they had to stick in the needles etc etc… we could relax knowing she was safe and in good hands… we waited until she was moved up onto a Ward… then got home in time for supper…having missed lunch completely.

But, I had to fight long and hard to get her the ambulance, to get to hospital…Why??? Surely there must be a simple procedure laid down somewhere… what to do in just such an emergency…
which is why I started this Thread…

What a nightmare.

It looks as if they were just very slow in understanding that it was an emergency, and they initially thought that you were simply calling to book an ambulance for a non-urgent visit to hospital.

You must have sounded too calm! I hope there won’t be a next time but if there is, put more panic into your voice…


Oh no… there was no misunderstanding… they knew it was urgent… I had stressed that from the outset…I.told them of her cardiac problem and gave them her vital signs on the first phone call… (and updated them with the new figures (falling) each time we spoke)… and the Doc was beside himself, when he phoned us back, after SAMU had spoken with him…

I was not too calm…I explained that I was a neighbour… I was firm and clear in the information I was providing… and prepared to stand my ground (fortunately)

and before anyone else suggests I was too calm… I should tell you that my ability to switch into calm-command mode in the face of an emergency or a crisis… was an ability much prized by my UK employers…:smile:

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Hello Stella

A traumatic time for you and all concerned !

I can only recount my experience (briefly) with my mother … 5 years ago she was unwell and I recognised the symptoms of a stroke. A good friend called the Samu (15) because now all the local doctors will not accept emergency calls, while I comforted her and gave aid.

It took 90 minutes before help arrived, it was a Sunday and we were ‘shuffled’ between the shifts of 2 neighbouring departments.

When we finally arrived at the hospital there was another long wait before she could be examined, it’s Sunday so not too many doctors available, once they had arrived at the same conclusion as me it was all systems go and she was given top priority. The service thereafter was excellent and I cannot fault them.

12 years ago my ex had chest pains at 3 am, a call to our local doctor (before the obligatory 15) brought immediate results. Our doctor arrived promptly, called in paramedics and a helicopter ( couldn’t land in our field because of violent storms and a high wind) and he was rapidly taken to the hospital. A transfer by air ambulance took him to the excellent hospital at Poitiers where they literally saved his life.

It’s incredible that the SAMU asked for an ordonnance first and that you had to contact an ambulance yourself.

So, what to do in an emergency ? My French friends all say call the Pompiers first because they are well equipped and react promptly.

I too will be interested in other peoples experiences, and like you belive that this service should be a one call procedure, expeciall when time is of the essence .

Do hope that your neighbour is recovering well …

There is also the EU emergency number 112. I"ve never dialled it so don’t know what happens but I have drilled it into my brain, just in case.

If in doubt call the pompiers who are normally the quickest to arrive and they will either deal with the emergency or get SAMU out. Our youngest children are volunteer pompiers and get called out for everything from minor falls to heart attacks and strokes.



When we first came over here… long time ago…OH had a heart attack, I phoned 18 Pompiers (in the next village) and they arrived within 10 minutes. Whilst I was confident I had not made a misdiagnosis, I said “hope I have not wasted your time”… and the man in charge went to great pains to reassure me that they would rather come out to a false-alarm… than come out too late, or not be called at all.

Anyway, at the hospital the Dr was chuffed to get OH so quickly and as a result of speedy treatment, the heart-damage was minimal (important but not as important as it would have been if treatment had been delayed.)

Since then, we have had to call them out on several occasions… they know their way blindfolded I should think :smile:

However, 15 SAMU is the contact that these neighbours had been told/heard about…so that was their choice, not mine.

The hospital called me yesterday morning… to get the family in quickly, but then she rallied a little…so, fingers crossed, I may get them some good news this morning…

Re SAMU. I’m determined to get to the bottom of things… so that we can outline the correct procedure in our next Village Bulletin.

Thanks for posting this Stella … I’ve never used the emergency services but always thought to call the Pompiers first. But separately, can one call the doctor at 3am? I wouldn’t have thought of that, not wanting to wake him, and would have gone straight to the emergency services. But I’m following this thread with interest … you never know when you will need that information.

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Must be about 10 years ago… a English lady (with no French) asked me to call her Doc, gave me his number …when I phoned it put me through to whichever Doc was covering the night-time calls…He came out for a fee of 75 euro…

Most of my experiences date from a while ago… so I am keen to identify what we should be doing NOW… :slightly_smiling_face:

Anna, this is a cross european emergency number and you will have to explain your problem and then be put in touch with which of the emergency services you need.
It also works inUK.

Stella, we are too far out for our GP to come out.
When I was suffering from pancreatitis, although I did not know it at the time, we went to Urgence with a bag packed for an overnight stay.
Out here we rely on the pompiers.
If you have a known condition, eg cardiac, I believe you contact SAMU because they can send an emergency doctor.


As you will see from my posts… the patient’s own doctor wanted her in hospital immediately… and SAMU just argued the toss… with near-fatal results… :rage:

We have an A4 sheet by the phone with such phrases as:

Our names, d.o.b. (en francais)
Docs’ name and phone no.
Our phone numbers
Our address and description of where we are

medical terms:

eg heart attack - crise cardiaque
stroke = attaque d’apolplexie
has collapsed = (il…elle) s’est écroulé
unconcious = inconcient
has choked = (il…elle) s’est étouffé
can’t breathe = respiration penible
bleeding = sanglant
trapped = coincé
has fallen = c’est tombé
has cut h/self = s’est coupé
has scalded/burnt h/self = s’est ébouillanté




Brilliant idea Roger…

I do know all the words and phrases… did a crash-course in medical French years ago… what I am trying to identify is the route that will not waste valuable time…

Do you have a number to contact an out-of-hours doctor? Locally we have a 4-figure number where we can contact an emergency doctor service (‘Allo Docteur’) on weekends, evenings and holidays. I have had to use it a couple of times and it has worked well. A doctor questions you about the symptoms and if needed makes an immediate appointment for you or sends an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Your doctor or pharmacist should have a leaflet if the service exists where you are.

Stroke: AVC (uh vay say = accident vasculaire cérébral)
Bleeding: saigne
Has fallen: est tombé

Because you can’t be too precise :wink: