1999 Africa: Casablanca (4)
1999 Africa: Casablanca (4)
A security officer came out to speak with us. Isaac threw up again, a bright yellow flume which colored my dark scarlet sweatshirt. The officer took his walkie-talkie and began speaking in a quick Arabic. Shortly thereafter a security car pulled up, a tiny Fiat/Seat-type of thing painted in black. We were bundled in the back and were driven to the officer’s home neighborhood (I believe). On the way Isaac threw up at least once, but I was able to use a towel we’d brought along to contain the spill. I was getting worried about dehydration, among other things.
It must have been only five or ten minutes, but it seemed like an eternity as we made high-speed lefts and rights, going further and further away from central Casablanca, deep into a neighborhood that certainly wasn’t on any map I had. We pulled up in front of a one-story beige building, the local medical clinic, I was informed. The four of us entered the building and explained our predicament with a mixture of hand-waving, English, and Arabic. We were led into a basement examination room by what I think was a physican, I couldn’t read the title on her name tag.
She went to a floor-standing glass cabinet where the very few supplies available were proudly on display, each with a hand-lettered description. The device used to look into Isaac’s ears was little more than a tiny funnel with a few mirrors to direct outside light inside the instrument. Then we played the translation game some more. It was suggested that we inject Isaac with an anti-emetic to stop the vomiting and perhaps also an antihistime, in case he was having an allergic reaction.
We rejected both of these suggestions. Isaac wasn’t displaying any of the usual signs of an allergic reaction, and we were loathe to treat symptoms without discovering the underlying cause. But we felt better having the doctor rule out anything knowingly virulent. The security officer drove us back to the hotel, where Isaac once again vomited. (In fact, he vomited each and every time he awoke from a nap. He was uncharacteristically whiny, but not lethargic, which would have worried me more.
I called our HMO in San Francisco, but they were unable to offer much beyond the canned medical advice. (It was after this trip that I got the direct phone number of Isaac’s pediatrican.) The cost was incredible. Since we had waited in the phone queue and the nurse on duty had to ask around for answers, three-quarters of an hour had passed. With the hotel surcharge the bill for our call was several hundred dollars! (In retrospect I realize I could have gone to a corner phone, but I didn’t see any, and we weren’t thinking at our best.)
I decided to strike out to the Hyatt, a few blocks away, and to see whether they had a listing for an English-speaking physican in town. The concierge asked around and returned with a phone number. “Doctor Cohen”, he said to me. Oh, I think. An expatriate American Jew, here in Casablanca. (Jews number about about one per cent of the population, according to my guide book.) I called the number, left a message, and started back home. I stopped by a pharmacy to buy a pediatric electrolyte replacement liquid, but I couldn’t make myself understood. It was especially frustrating because the pharmacist seemed to have a good command of English. Perhaps it’s not a common remedy.
Rose and I had discussed the dangers of either of us getting sick, what with Isaac needing two hale adults to provide him with care. Since our small meal on the plane the night before, we’d eaten no food in the last twenty hours save a bit of yoghurt. With the stress of worring and running around we were in dire need of food, and as things didn’t look as though they were going to get simpler any time soon, I decided to break our accidental fast. Where, I asked myself, could I purchase food that would be so well cooked as to eliminate bacteria? Not in any of the tempting local restaurants which were open, now that the sun had set. So I stopped by McDonalds and ordered a variety of burgers, fries, and drinks. (I figured any company so used to being sued would stop at no efforts to banish the e. coli from their offerings.) I continued on my way feeling a bit like the ugly tourist, but with two bags of hot food in hand. I also got several liters of water, as we were quickly getting that desert parched feeling.
Most Americans reading these web pages won’t have any direct experience with house calls, but let me tell you, having a physician come to you is great. One doesn’t have to disturb the patient, and whatever has become the comfortable routine can continue. Medicins Moroc – Moroccan Medical Doctors – is an organization which does house calls. The doctor we’d called happened to be a member. But he wasn’t an expatriate Jew.
Doctor el Kahoun, a native Moroccan who did some post-licensing work in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, arrived at our hotel around 23:00. Isaac got a thorough examination. Best of all, the doctor understood our English, and we were able to describe the signs and symptoms. We were able to show him the chart of Isaac’s temperature. He prescribed several medications, none of which I recognized. He called down to the reception and had one of the workers come upstairs to fetch the prescription slips and some money from me; the filled prescriptions were brought back to us, with change, in a few minutes. The doctor also had us moved to a room higher up in the hotel, one without paint fumes.
The doctor suggested that we visit him tomorrow, after which we could continue on to Marrakesh. Medical care, he said, would probably be unnecessary as we’d be self-sufficient with these prescriptions, but should it be desired, physicians were available.
Isaac continued to vomit through the night, although somewhat less frequently, I think. I took him into the shower to calm him; he was quite fussy and unhappy with the affliction.
Monday 20 December 1999
The next morning we slept in a bit. How, I don’t know. Our first stop was the Hyatt, for some food, since the restaurant was open for guests all day despite the Ramadan observance of the faithful. Rose’s ham and cheese sandwich was horribly undercooked, and my hamburger as equally overcooked. But it was food.
All of a sudden it came to me: limping along with Isaac’s illness going full steam was silly, better to take an early flight to the
and be in a warm, familiar setting with Oma’s doctor nearby. I bundled my family out onto the bustling main street. I had directions to the Royal Air Maroc offices, but they were vague, and I was burning up with a need to move on. Our time in the RAM offices was long, far longer than it needed to be, but the woman to whom I explained my problem required frequent assistantance from her supervisors. I took Isaac outside for strolls around the block, distracting him by having us look for busses (a favorite), motorcycles (almost as good), and the occasional emergency vehicle (the best of all). Finally we had new tickets in hand, leaving in a few short hours.
We rushed back to the hotel. Rose held Isaac and I threw our belongings into the suitcases. The front desk had been alerted and had our bill ready. A cab driver stood waiting in the lobby. Things never go as smoothly as all that. Citibank announced that it had a policy of only allowing a few hundred dollars as the maximum charge in Morocco, so I had to split the cost across two cards. And then we were off to the airport. I believe it goes without saying that we got caught in a traffic jam (“it’s getting to be like this all the time”, said the cabbie); the exhaust fumes made us nostalgic for the paint fumes in our first room. Once outside of the city proper we drove at a high speed on a two-lane road, passing workers and farmers walking and laboring by the road, until at long last we saw a big sign for the airport.
[If you’re a reader of my travelogues you know how much I like take photos. The complete absence of many photos after
became ill should speak volumes about how worried and engrossed with his care we became. Hopefully we’ll be able to go back and take lots of photos to overcome this deficiency.]
Hungry, tired, worried, and sweaty, I dropped into my airplane seat. There was no direct flight to Gran Canaria during the off-season. We were going to
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