Not long ago, the personal assistant to an actress left me a voicemail message. In the past, I had provided travel care—vaccines and malaria pills, treatments for pesky rashes and other overseas ills—to the actress, her husband, and members of their entourage. Two or three years had passed since our last visit, but, of course, I remembered the glamorous crew. The aging celebrity—still beautiful. The business tycoon husband who adored and indulged her. And, last but not least, the butler, secretaries, and other helpers who kept the couple’s lives running in true, Hollywood-fairytale style.
As an occasional doctor to the household, I even knew bits and pieces of its Upstairs, Downstairs dramas. Some staff members—for various reasons—didn’t last. But something in this assistant’s voice told me that she was a seasoned pro. It was respectful, yet it carried a subtle force. She was accustomed, I sensed, to asking favors on behalf of her famous employer.
“Dr. Panosian, could you please call the Mexican authorities…or the World Health Organization?” Pregnant pause. “Pauline [not the actress’s real name] believes there is an outbreak of dengue hemorrhagic fever near the construction site of her new villa on the coast of Mexico. One of her workers there is in the hospital. He has been diagnosed with dengue, malaria, and an amebic liver abscess.”