Adventures in Doctorland

I’ve been stateside for about a month now in preparation for baby #2 and during this time, I have visited the doctor quite a bit. That’s why, when in the waiting room the other day, I chuckled out loud after stumbling across some notes I made while in the waiting room of the doctor’s office in Morocco. Two experiences could not be more different. Let me elaborate.

As in any foreign country, finding a doctor’s office, or any office, is an adventure. Streets aren’t marked. Neither are buildings. Parking is a free-for-all, even in a city like Rabat. I ended up jumping the curb in my mini-van and parking on the only vacant section of sidewalk I could find. As far as I could tell, this was a perfectly legitimate maneuver.

Once out of my car, I tried to pretend like I knew where I was going, but really, I had no clue. By the way, it’s hard to walk with feigned purpose while dodging parked cars on the sidewalk. Process of elimination led me to a four-story building that simply said “60” on the front. Inside, the lobby was empty. No signage, no humans. I took the staircase and walked down the dark hallway of each and every floor, hoping for some sign of a medical facility. I reached the roof (it was open), then started back down, repeating the process in hopes that I missed something the first time. At this point, I would have been happy for any sign that the building was not completely vacant.

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Each floor was clearly denoted with permanent marker.

Back on level 1, I finally spotted a small plaque with the doctor’s name. Really??? The door looked more like a storage closet. It did not seem like a doctor’s office could be in there. I slowly opened the door, feeling pretty skeptical at this point…and…ta da! There was a real doctor’s office in there! It was well-lit and everything. Quite a contrast from the dark, void hallway.

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Kinda dark for a doctor’s office, agreed?

Now, the rest of the visit was equally strange. The nurse/receptionist/cashier took all my vitals, my weight and everything right there in the waiting room, in front of all the other patients. I guess patient confidentiality isn’t a “thing” here. And the nurse/receptionist/cashier kept moving my limbs for me like I was a helpless, pregnant barbie doll. Once in my private room, she motioned for me to undress, but then stood 2 feet from me and watched my every move. Slightly awkward. Maybe she was worried that my fixed barbie joints would not be able to accomplish this task alone.

The fun continued, but let’s skip ahead to my glucose challenge at “the lab,” where I was sent next. For the purposes of this story, we’ll assume that finding “the lab” was equally as challenging as finding the doctor’s office…because it was. At the lab, I was ushered to my own private room with a half-made bed. I think the sheets were clean. Let’s go with 55% sure. There was a metal cart with one of those detestable metal trays where nurses deposit medical waste. And there was a blue medical cabinet to match the blue tile, the smelly blue curtains, and the blue sheets (Note: I did not give the curtains a sniff test, but I put my money on the funky smell coming from the curtains. I base this solely on the proximity of the smell to where my head was about to be).

I take that back. I’m now only 45% sure these were clean sheets.

Yuck, medical supplies.

There is nothing more unsettling than what happened next. Two nurses came in and spoke at length (an agonizing and uncomfortable length) about what was supposed to happen next. Now, I don’t speak French, but there were enough hand motions (including the needle-in-arm motion) that I could only imagine nurse #1 was telling nurse #2 how to draw blood and generally how to conduct the glucose challenge test. This was not something I needed to witness, as I was already on-edge regarding a fabled blood-smear on the wall that a friend had told me about. My fears were unfounded though, as nurse #2 proceeded confidently and successfully to draw blood in one try. He then brought out a glass of water and a crystal container full of sugar. Literally, the sugar looked as if it had been snatched from a table at the tea place next door. It must have been special stuff though because it dissolved in the water right away. The nurse motioned for me to drink and then insisted that I lay down under the sheets. Actually, he physically deposited me under the sheets like the inanimate object I had learned good Moroccan patients should be. He returned a few moments later with a tissue box which he set beside my bed. Maybe he thought I would be crying and surprisingly, I wasn’t. Instead, I was looking around for the blood smear.

Lots of care was taken to stay within the blue theme of this room.

Here I am, patiently waiting out the glucose challenge under the maybe-clean sheets.

There was not much to do for the next two hours except write down as much as I could about my doctor experience before it was forgotten. In a moment of reflection, I stared at the cryptic “artwork” on the wall and pondered, “Is it beauty or is it beast?”

Not sure what the take-away message is supposed to be on this one. The use of English language did not help.

Fast forward to the doctor’s office, Gastonia, North Carolina. The nurse was not able to interpret my glucose test results. She asked if I knew how much glucose they had used. I told her it looked like about 1 cup of sugar. She looked confused, so I explained how they dissolved the granulated sugar into the water. She quietly left the room and in a conversation I probably was not supposed to hear, I listened to her and the doctor laugh heartily at the idea of using anything resembling table sugar in a glucose test.

I survived the Moroccan medical system. And truthfully, it wasn’t really bad at all. The doctors came through in a big way on several occasions and I sense that generally, they can handle almost anything. I realized that I too can handle almost anything, or at least much more than I think I can. I’ll try to tell myself next time a French-speaking man comes at me with a needle.

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