Week 5: Medical Miscalculations

Well, what a week that was… We are already at the end of week 6, and I’m only now getting a chance to sit down and reflect on what happened in the previous one. So, without any further delay, here, finally, is week 5.

One of the things we have not discussed on this blog so far, is the issue of health. My wife has, over the last few years, developed at least two autoimmune diseases. They have been life changing. This is not the place to go into detail about them but, suffice to say, they have had a seriously detrimental impact on her quality of life. In turn, while we are trying to live a self-sufficiency focused, zero-impact lifestyle, while also having a young family, being down one adult team member, can make everything much more challenging.

We had a really scary incident two weeks back where, thanks to the impacts of the second autoimmune condition, my wife was left unconscious for a considerable period of time. It was a wake up call for the medical professionals near to us, who we have been working with for a very long time, to find a solution to the challenges which face her. We are now very hopeful that she will be hospitalised for a short period, during which time her medical team will be able to identify some sort of solution that will allow her to live a normal life, without the fear of randomly collapsing.

In the meantime, medical care has been coming into the home. When it comes to healthcare in France, so long as you are in the system (which we kindof are – another story, for another time), the system can be really, really good. We’ve had regular home visits from nurses and doctors, monitoring and taking measurements and tests, while also administering medication at home as well. In the moments of crisis, this has included intravenous fluid drips.

Having such support coming into the home is great, but with it comes a heap load of plastic. The nature of much of the medical material to have entered our home in the last two weeks, is that the bulk of it is single use, and allows for nothing more than depositing in household waste (or holding on to it as a ghoulish reminder). But it’s been unavoidable. While we can petition local practices to change materials, I have no idea what would be the practical reality for such shifts in a medical setting – that is research for me to follow up on, but in those pinch situations, where emergency medical care is required, do you say ‘no, no, we are plastic free’, and reject the support? Probably not.

So, while my wife was gradually recovering, I was wading through plastic bags, and pipes and packaging, reluctantly deposing of it, as advised by the visiting nurses. However, what was the real kicker, was how other standards slipped. Suddenly, we had missed market day, and the organic shops were closed thanks to their quirky hours – the house was low on supplies, and I didnt have the luxury of time to go searching far and wide for refillable options and plastic free solutions. I needed to feed my family then, and be back in time to make sure my wife was well. Plastic packaging crept in.

I’ve discussed this on twitter and there have been some really supportive voices. This is unusual and circumstances more than desire (or apathy) led to plastics coming back inside, but nonetheless, it still felt like a betrayal and a failing of our principles. It reaffirms the importance of planning, and heightens my sympathies to those who don’t have easy access to the plastic free food resources that we have relatively nearby. Perhaps those reminders of the challenges involved are important, but given how well the first four weeks had gone, I don’t feel like we were in need of the reminder just yet. What this is though, is a different type of challenge – a challenge to resist the easy street solutions that week 5 offered when times were tough. Moving forward, we have to make sure that hard work of January, is not knocked aside by the uncontrollable challenges presented at the start of February.

Week 6 will follow at some point this weekend.






  1. Gosh yes your wife’s health is a much higher priority than being plastic free. We had a nurse visiting our house for over 3 years when my son was on chemo. This was long before I attempted reducing plastic and when I look back now, there was always a lot of waste, but I wouldn’t have changed it. Even looking at over the counter medication like paracetamol, I don’t see any plastic free options.
    And please don’t give yourself a hard time over having to buy food in plastic packaging at this time either. Needs must

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement. We have tried to rationalise things and not punish ourselves over this. I think it’s that thing, that we really went for this at the start of the year, and had being going so well, only for factors beyond our control derailing things – it’s very difficult in that context to not be disheartened. You are of course right though, and it has been a needs must situation. My partner is starting a stint in hospital tomorrow, and we are both looking forward to this time being an opportunity for the doctors to do right by her, which will help facilitate us doing right by ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As an RN in a hospital in the US, I KNOW how wasteful medical care is! One-time use everything because we can’t risk contamination. It is very frustrating and I find myself shaking my head all shift long while I’m generating piles of trash for each of my patients. At home, some of the health maintenance routine can be adjusted for reusable and recyclable, but even this is limited. I wish we could come up with better ways to generate less waste in medical care without risking spreading infection. Perhaps it’s a good thing you’ve had a hiccup already…it’s happened. Oh well. We try again tomorrow and choose better than yesterday. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes! You got this! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for that! Indeed, better we face challenges early on, and learn from it now, putting in place a stronger strategy for the rest of the year.

      I suspected issues of contamination were the main factor, and I can totally sympathise with the challenges that critical issue presents. However, it does surprise me that there has not been more progress in this area, and I wonder if anyone is making any meaningful efforts into sustainable medical supplies solutions?


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