Science

In the emergency room of Pitié-Salpêtrière, the return of Loulou the retiree

“He’s our Loulou!” For weeks, the former caregiver of Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris had not been in place. So for the second wave of the Covid epidemic, this pillar for thirty-five years of the emergency department came out of retirement to put on his gown.

Loulou’s departure drink, in October 2019, everyone remembers. In the “staff” room, there was planter rum and more than 150 people …

“I have rarely seen so many people for a starting drink. It was very solemn and very moving,” recalls the head of the department, Dr Pierre Hausfater. “At 6 am, we were still there and not all very fresh,” adds a nurse.

And then Loulou left. Her huge rasta braids, which swayed happily over her blue pajamas, disappeared from the hallways. “It created a void”, remembers nurse Loïg Poupon.

In her small apartment in Vincennes, Rosa-François Lousassa, known as Loulou, fulfilled her new life as a young retiree of 63 years old and tried to forget the hospital.

Rosa-François Lousassa, known as Loulou, a former caregiver, puts on a protective gown in the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

“The first wave, I told myself it’s hard not to be there but it will allow me to cut, to find myself”, he said in his soft voice.

This great athlete with the build of a titan takes care of his figure and runs for one hour a day. He’s also looking after his 91-year-old mother, planning his next vacation to Miami, and “hanging out in front of stupid soap operas.”

– “Second breath” –

“At the start of the second wave, I felt that my life was becoming painful again but also useless. I knew the colleagues were at their end, burned out, and I thought to myself why not use all this unnecessary time? “

Rosa-François Lousassa, known as Loulou, former nursing assistant, transports a patient to the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP - Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Rosa-François Lousassa, known as Loulou, former nursing assistant, transports a patient to the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

One Friday, he called his executive on duty. And on Monday, the caregiver returned to his post for a temporary reinforcement at the reception of the emergencies of “Pitié”, the largest university hospital in Europe.

“Seeing his name reappear on the schedule, we were ecstatic. It gave us a second wind after six very hard months,” said her colleague from the day shift, Angélique Pillot.

Loulou the savior? The caregiver with 1,400 euros net of retirement does not want to hear about it. The turbulent former kid from Guadeloupe does not forget that he started in the service by washing tiles. Out of modesty, he even preferred to put down the reasons for his return on the paper of a very solemn letter.

Rosa-François Lousassa, dit Loulou (c), former nursing assistant, takes care of a patient in the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP - Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Rosa-François Lousassa, dit Loulou (c), former nursing assistant, takes care of a patient in the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

In two pages, Loulou explains “carefully considered choice”. His vision of the health crisis too. “I think that it is not so much the Covid-19 which kills, which is dangerous, but mainly the lack of human and material means which prevent the assumption of responsibility. If we had been listened to we would not be there” ” , he scratches.

A year after his departure, “his” emergencies are unrecognizable. The parking lot is cluttered with an overheated military tent under which new faces evolve, anonymous under their masks.

– Intelligence of care –

The flow of patients is dense, around a hundred entries that day, but still manageable. “More than during the heatwave of 2003, when patients died in the elevator,” recalls the nursing assistant.

Rosa-François Lousassa, dit Loulou, former caregiver, with firefighters under the triage tent of the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP - Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Rosa-François Lousassa, dit Loulou, former caregiver, with firefighters under the triage tent of the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

An elderly woman arrives in a stretcher. Loulou, who prefers “action” to administrative tasks, especially the tedious typing into the computer, leaps from his chair and puts on his anti-Covid protective gear.

With delicacy but authority, he pushes aside the family of the patient, who rebuffs him and helps him free himself from his coat. Then he hangs a small identification bracelet on her arm and places his huge hand on the patient’s frail back.

Rosa-François Lousassa, known as Loulou, former nursing assistant, at the reception of the emergency departments of the Salpêtrière hospital, on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP - Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Rosa-François Lousassa, known as Loulou, former nursing assistant, at the reception of the emergency departments of the Salpêtrière hospital, on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

The magic, or intelligence, of Loulou’s care operates, that which astonishes all floors of the department and makes him collapse under the boxes of chocolate offered by patients. “He has contact with people, it’s disconcerting,” applauds the nurse.

“They must feel that someone is taking care of them (…) working in the hospital does not immunize, one day it will be us on this stretcher”, summarizes Loulou by delivering his definition of the ’empathy.

Rosa-François Lousassa, dit Loulou, former nursing assistant, takes care of a patient in the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP - Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Rosa-François Lousassa, dit Loulou, former nursing assistant, takes care of a patient in the emergency department of the Salpêtrière hospital, on November 24, 2020 in Paris (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

The “bogus retiree” has signed a vacation contract with the Public Assistance of Paris hospitals until January 20, 2021. But he says he is already ready to resume for a possible third wave of the epidemic. “Now that I’m here …” he blurted out. “I gave my life to this hospital. Or they took it from me, I don’t know yet.”

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