Saturday 23rd December
We spend a good night in the carpark at Essaouria, but I’ve had a restless night. When I finally wake up I know there’s something terribly wrong. When I look in the mirror I can see that the whole of the left side of my face has been twisted and pulled to my right side, my noise is off center and I can’t close my eye, I can’t move the left side of my mouth and as a result my speech is slurred. My face isn’t numb but my immediate thought and my only thought was I’d had some sort of stroke. Keith tries to reassure me that I’ve had a reaction to something but neither of us could think from what. What I did know from seeing the adverts about strokes on the TV is that we needed to get to the hospital quickly.
It’s 7.30am we don’t know how to get a taxi, there’s no one about so we decide to cycle, plus it will be easier than trying to park Eugene we know he’s safe in the carpark. We cycle the 2km along the sea front, maps.me is showing where the hospital is, surly this can’t be right, it’s a half derelict building site with barbed wire fencing around and a security guard at the gate. The guard tells us yes, go straight on and turn right. There are men working and the grounds are full of building machinery, the building really does look derelict windows are missing, smashed, boarded up, parts of the building are falling down, it looks like a bomb site or war zone. We find a door and a second guard tells us we can leave our pushbike in the inside hallway where they will be safe!
The common language here in Morocco is French. My French is not that good at the best of times, but now in a panic and state of shock I can’t think of any words so we resort to the Collins holiday phrase book “I need to see a doctor”. He directs us down the corridor and we arrive in a room where there are a couple of people (clearly patients) already here sitting on the chairs that are set out around the room, there’s a desk but on-one official is there. After about 15 minutes I show my phrase book to a guy who looks like he might work here “yes the doctor will come in 2 minutes, here, wait” we take a seat as over the next 2 hours more people arrive but still no-one official looking. Ambulances arrive with patients on stretchers, take them off the stretcher sit them on a chair if ones free or leave them standing and leave, some of these people are clearly in pain and need assistance, but still no one appears. There doesn’t appear to be any booking in checking procedure. This is turning into the worse nightmare ever.
Keith is getting anxious but there’s still no one to speak to. For once I am the one being calm, there’s nothing we can do, there’s no one here. The room is freezing cold and noisy the main doors are missing and the building works are going on right outside. A cleaner is the only person who looks like she works here, busy washing the floor as more people arrive.
I call my travel insurance to advise them I am at the hospital, their response was I was at a hospital that they didn’t have an agreement with and we needed to go to the next hospital. Apparently we were at the national health hospital and not at a private hospital, they would contact the liaison officer to assist. We can’t go to another hospital we can’t get there and I felt we were better off staying put for the time being if the liaison offer called before I was seen then we would do as they say.
About 10.30am the doctor finally arrives with a guard, yes a guard, all hell let loose as he disappeared into a side room with several patients following all shouting at each other, lots of hand waving, pushing and shoving each other to get through the door. I think there must have been 10 patients all in the room together. The guard standing outside the door. We wait and as each patient cames out others surge through the door, some speaking with the guard and paying him money to allow them to be seen before others. It was clear there was still no order so we had to the un-British thing and get in there and push to the front of the queue. One woman a Morocco who had been waiting to be seen when we arrived came out the doctors room and stood in the doorway gesturing for us to go in and it was clear to us she was telling everyone else we had been waiting a long time, with some resistance from some and the help of this woman we managed to get into the room with a male patient jumping in before the door could be closed. Luckily the doctor ushered him out, think this was probably because we weren’t Moroccan or he would have been staying.
In the room there was only a desk and a couple of chairs, no equipment at all and it was cold. The doctor spoke as much English as we did French, I got out my iPad and in google translate I wrote ‘I think I’ve had a stroke’, he looked at me and straight away said ‘no no you don’t have this’, this immediately sent a wave of relief to us both. He came round to me after a bit of pushing and prodding to my face to see where it hurt he got a pen and paper and drew a face showing the tubes been the ear and nose ‘sinus, pus’ he said. Again with the iPad I explained to him that I have high blood pressure and showed him my medication. ‘Okay, blood pressure to nurse and xray’ he gave me a piece of paper ‘go and comeback’.
As we opened the door to leave the room as before others were trying to push past us to get in, we had no idea go where to the nurse. The guard showed us into a ward along the corridor and walking into that ward was like walking onto the set of a very scary old film. There were about 5 beds with filthy thick mattresses stained and torn no sheets, rusty bed frames. There were 3 women patients on the beds, one clearly in pain and two women sat at a desk. No one said anything to us and at one point I wondered if Keith should actually be in the ward, but he was staying nevertheless.
One of the women from the desk came to look at my paper, she took us to another room with two beds just as filthy and told me to sit on the chair. A husband and wife were already in the room they looked European and seemed just as confused as us to see us in the room with them as we were to see them. I sat on the chair and the nurse took my blood pressure and wanted my passport and went off and left me for 10 minutes with the cuff still on. Another nurse came gave me my passport, the paper with the blood pressure reading and ‘finished’.
Where to now, again to the guard he points to another part of the waiting room. We assume this is the X-ray waiting room, a few chairs with about 6 people waiting and signs depicting X-ray. We wait, a guy with a white coat whom we assume is the Radiologist comes out of a room and as with the doctor everyone gets up and starts trying to get through the door. He’s looking at everyone’s paper and either letting them through the door or directing them down the corridor. He sees us and calls us over, looks at the paper and says something in French, we don’t understand ‘anglaise’ he speaks to a guy pushing another in a wheel chair and gestures for us to go with him. We end at a counter where we came into the hospital, the guy wants my paper, passport and 60dhm (£5). As I’m paying a woman behind me is pulling me back so she can get to the counter.
It’s funny how trauma affects what you do, if I was at home as most of you know I’m not one for sitting back patiently and letting people walk all over me, and this is exactly what I was letting them do I felt I needed to shout at the top of my voice to be heard and seen and giving all these impatient people a piece of my mind, but I’m in a foreign county, can’t speak the language and there is absolutely no one here who gives a dam. The people we have seen in this hospital have absolutely no respect or patience.
We have to go back to the X-ray waiting area. We sit and wait working out we should be 4th in, but the women who had been pulling me came and sat right by the door and put the wheelchair that she was pushing right in the door way. The door opened and she tried to push past but was prevented when the radiologist gestured for us, there were words said and waving of arms but we carried on and went in and he locked the door behind us.
We were absolutely not prepared for the state of the X-ray room or the equipment, a bench to sit on on one side so we sat down. There were huge holes in parts of the concrete floor, the X-ray bed was rusty and the plastic mattress had tape where it was ripped in places, I asked Keith if the black handle in the bed was a knife because it looked like it was. The window was smashed and boarded up. The radiologist told me to stand with my face against the machine ‘ don’t move’ I could hear him calling Keith to go with him behind the wall. X-ray taken the door was unlocked and an old guy in a wheelchair with his son came in. The radiologist said something to them, the old guy started emptying his pockets, was he getting undressed to get on the bed, what now do we wait or go, so we get up to leave, ‘Wait, sit’ shouted the radiologist so we wait all the while the old guy is getting himself sorted. They hand me my X-ray to go back to the doctor.
By the time we get back to the waiting area there must be 30 people or more all around the door as before shouting and pushing, there seems to be some system forming now in the people sitting in the chairs, as they go in the room, you move up the seats, so we joined in and we’re almost at the door when all hell let’s loose again, someone is pushing in. We stand up to stand our ground just as the doctor opens the door, we make a quick move to the door and he lets us in and stays in the doorway as he clearly gives the people outside a piece of his mind because it goes very quiet.
The doctor looks at the X-ray and with google images shows me the symptoms, an X-ray and pictures of the muscles being pulled by the infection. He points to my X-ray and the images to assure me I have acute sinusitis. He writes out a prescription for us to go to the pharmacy. 5 days of anti-inflammatory, 8 days of antibiotics, ear drops, nose drops and some thing else for 10 days. There should be some improvement within 10 days or so. I must not get my ears wet and no cycling and I must keep my ears and mouth covered if it’s cold or windy.
Off we cycle 1km to the pharmacy to get the bag of drugs which cost 417dhm (£34) relieved and feeling 100 times better than 5 hours ago.
Our morning is probably most peoples holiday nightmare, being in a foreign county unable to speak the language, this clearly is one of the worse experiences we have ever encountered and not one we ever want to experience again. If we’d been in Spain, Italy or anywhere else I’m positive the diagnosis would have been the same but our experience would have been completely different and a less traumatic event. Reading on the internet about Moroccan health care makes me feel so lucky that it was nothing serious and I didn’t need to be admitted.
I’ve taken the below from a few sources on the internet about Hospital services and care in Morocco and in particular if you get admitted.
- You need to supply almost all of your own things like; drinking water, food, cups, sheets, blankets and pillows.
- Unless you request it, you should try and pay to see if you can get a single room.
- If you need any type of medicine, drips, solutions, morphine, antibiotics etc the doctor will write a prescription and either you or someone else will need to go the pharmacy which is not at the hospital to get the medication. The cost to the locals can be crippling and they may go without the essential medicine they need.
We decide to leave Essaouira and head 3 hours further south to Sidi Kaouki.
Oopps we did it again, we trusted the TomTom as it took us down an unpaved road initially for 2km, but as we are learning about the TomTom and the Moroccan roads this turns into 7km of stones, potholes, dusty track which at times resembled a dry riverbed, there wasn’t a sole in sight. We finally get back to the motorway and find the campsite, a 30 minute drive taking over an hour.
The campsite is situated in a very small village mainly used by surfers, there’s only one street overlooking the beach with a few restaurants and cafes. It had a nice feel to it as we drove through. The campsite is Camping Sidi Kaouki Beach up a small track from the road. It was lovely and the pitches set out with little hedges. The only downside for us was the electricity was only 6amp so we had to use the gas for cooking. After the exhausting morning and the 3 hour drive we now both feeling tired. We decided to walk to the end of the road to the shop, we’d left Essaouira with going to the supermarket and need bread, water and eggs.
As we walked along the street the dogs were about and I wasn’t happy about this, we’ve mostly see the dogs sleeping during the day. We get to the shop which is also has a few cafes, lots of people around. We take a stroll on the beach, camels, quad bikes, horses but lots of surfers. The waters rough and ideal. We get what we need from the shop and as we walk I started eating the bread, only to notice that a dog had taken interest in the smell and started following, it wouldn’t go away, so we walked down onto the beach more people down there, it lost interest and went and bothered someone else. I was still unnerved by the dogs and we could see from the beach a group of about 6 or 7 up on the road barking and running around, clearly bothering something or someone. We got back to the campsite and enjoyed a long hot shower and I was in bed before 7pm.
Sunday Christmas Eve
We decided not to stay at Sidi Kaouki only because we were unprepared for a Christmas dinner and if we went out to eat I was bothered about the dogs so we left to drive 3 hours south to Agadir. As we drive the temperature reaches 17 degrees.
This time the TomTom did good and there were no unpaved roads. We passed through various towns and villages and had to do the snake our way through, Keith is finally getting to grips in for seeing what the driver, rider, donkey, goat, sheep or child is going to do in front of us in the middle of a busy road it’s exhausting for Keith it’s like he’s doing an extremely hard hazard perception test.
We stop along the way and pick up some bread for lunch and find a great spot at the side of the road overlooking the sea.
We put in the cd Rod Stuart ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ and sing our way along the road not that it makes us feel anymore like Christmas, but we take our eyes off the speedometer and before we know it we’re stopped by the police. We’ve been so careful the police are everywhere, roundabouts, crossings, entry and exits to the towns. The speed limits in towns is 40km, exit the town 60km we were doing 71km. The police officer shows us the speed gun with our speed, it’s probably right, 150dhm cash fine, Keith’s driving licence, log book and passport. We get a ticket signed by the two officers and Keith, pay the cash and on our way, no more Christmas Rod Stuart lol.
We arrive in Agadir it’s very much a tourist place, huge beach and promenade. We check into the campsites, it’s really not what we want but it’s right in the centre of everything. It’s busy loads of French vans here spots marked out with water bottles it’s difficult to see what is actually a pitch. We find somewhere but it’s near the busy road with a row of nightclubs opposites. Keith’s not happy we wanted a nice campsite to spend Christmas by the beach, but I’m tied and not feeling that great, it will have to do. We set up then take a walk to the supermarket to get Christmas dinner. At the minute I can’t wear my contact lens and wearing my reading glasses but struggling a little with my left eye so have just been wearing my sunglasses to hopefully help my eye relax. In the supermarket we look for whole chicken, there’s two plump corn fed chickens and a scrawny little white thing. I get Keith to read what it says in the label, date and cost. He says one of the corn fed says it should have been eaten yesterday, the other today. Read it again the will be two dates, date it’s packed and date to be eaten and the cost, 320dhm, that can’t be right £30 for a corn fed chicken, whilst we’re trying to work out the dates and the costs some guy picks up both corn fed chickens and puts them in his trolley so we’re left with the white scrawny one. We ask at the counter but no more chickens, we could have a turkey that will feed about 20, no a bit big but thanks, so the scrawny chicken it is. Next time I’m wearing my reading glasses.
We get back to the camp and at 5.30pm on Christmas Eve we’re doing a weeks hand-washing, this just about sums up the weekend. We reminisce about what we would be doing if we were at home and this doesn’t even come close lol.
I can’t drink alcohol with the amount of medication I’m taking plus I need to buy some straws so I can drink without it spilling out my mouth, I sound like a slurping camel when I’m eating and drinking lol. Keith has a few beers and we call it a day about 10pm. We thought the road noise was bad enough, 11pm the night clubs opened and the booming of the music is loud and we can feel it vibrating this goes on until 5am, then the call to morning prayers starts wailing out across the town, it’s fair to say it was along night.
Well Santa definitely didn’t find us here in Morocco and we open up the only Christmas thing we have, a card which Glenn had given us before we left and it made me miss home just for a teeny wincey bit. During the night Jodie had WhatsApp to the family group to Skype which we had missed by about an hour, we call Shane and the kids first, Glenn is there and Jodie had already spoke with them earlier. Since Hollie was born we’ve got up at the crack of dawn, collected Glenn on the way to Shane’s and waited for the kids to be allowed downstairs so we can watch them open their presents. But our call is to late but it’s so much calmer in Toms household with all that out the way. Hollie and Riley are thrilled with their presents that we had bought them they thought we were getting them anything lol, Louis on the other hand was pleased to show us his digger that uncle Glenn had bought him 🤔.
We head off to the beach, it’s about 22 degrees but the wind is a little nippy, Keith braves the water, about the same as home he says far to cold for me. We go for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the promenade cheese burger and chips for Keith, now there’s a surprise and battered calamari for me with creame brûlée for dessert Keith’s favorite a couple of beers with a generous tip, not by me I will add 180dhm (£14). We head back to beach to Skype the family, we pretend it’s lovely and warm, but it’s got a little nippy, but it makes them jealous lol.
We head back to camp to put the scrawny chicken and veg in the Cobb to cook, an hour and half later the best roast potatoes and crispy chicken. We end the night watching a film before bed and the long night ahead.
We’re up early, I do another load of hand washing whilst Keith’gives Eugene a sneaky wash with a bit of water and a brush (no washing of campers allowed) it doesn’t make a huge difference but he looks better and we head off for another lazy day on the beach. As yesterday it’s lovely and sunny but the wind puts a chill on things, Keith goes for a swim but has to get dressed because he’s freezing. We end up at PizzaHut for tea before heading back to camp.
Agadir wasn’t our best place to spend Christmas too commercialised full of european tourists, persistent touts and begging children. We’ve taken the choice not to give to any beggars at all, it is hard, we were walking along the promenade when a woman approached us with a girl of about 4 the mother had her hand out to us for money, ‘no’ we say, then the children jumps into action and almost pins herself to Keith’s leg walking alongside him with her hand out begging ‘no’ again before her mother calls her back. We were in the restaurant a family had finished their meal, paid and left the table when a mother and small boy sat down and ate some the left over food and drink before wrapping some of it up and leaving to move to the next table.
It’s been a whole mixed weekend and not like the Christmas weekend we had in our minds when we planned this trip but we will remember this Christmas for a very long time.
Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and Santa got you everything you’d wished for.
Thanks for sticking with us xx
A la perchoine x
Shirena & Keith