Traveling in Morocco, it was inevitable that at least some of us would fall prey to diarrhea. What are the odds when you’ve grown up in a world of hand sanitizers, and you come to live and work in a developing country where water and hygiene are not taken for granted?
Each morning we would have a meeting as a group and we would go through a “poop scale.” For the poop scale we each held up our fingers, one through ten, where five was completely normal, one was “I haven’t had a bowel movement for a week,” and ten… was unfortunate. So, for those of us who were consistently “tenning” (having bad diarrhea) and were fairly miserable, the leaders decided to take us to a doctor. There were too many opportunities for the sickness to worsen or to weaken us significantly — especially in a climate that we were not used to. That turned out to be a good decision because a number of us had Amoebiasis.
The doctor was not a stranger; he was the father of a former student of one of our leaders, Julia, and also on the plus side he spoke French fluently. Five of us (four students, one Julia) trooped into his spacious office where we sat down in front of his desk and one by one rattled off our almost identical symptoms. One by one he took us behind a partition on the other end of the room to give our stomachs an ultrasound that showed bubbles in our intestines.
While we sat around the table discussing the necessary lab work if we were to be treated and the prescriptions that he could write for us in the meantime, the topic veered slightly and turned to him and his education. He explained to me – in French— “I am a surgeon, but here I’m also a pediatrician, a cardiologist, an … etc. Because here in Morocco there aren’t enough doctors, I must do everything.”
As I heard his words, I realized that much like falling prey to diarrhea because we are used to hand sanitizers and hygiene, we are also accustomed to having hundreds of doctors in a hospital each having spent a specific number of years studying medicine as well as their individual discipline. To be sitting in a doctor’s office that wouldn’t look out of place in an American hospital and yet to realize that that doctor has no choice but to do everything, take on every role, is sobering.
As an aspiring doctor, I am saddened that there must be Moroccans out there who wish to become doctors but do not have the ability or the means to. And I’m saddened that those who do have the opportunity and training must carry a much heavier burden than otherwise.