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Monday, September 26, 2005

Barrier

I did my best to understand what my patient was trying to say, but it wasn't working. Both he and I looked at each other with a bit of frustration. He didn't speak english, I didn't speak Spanish. Oftentimes I can deduce what someone is trying to tell me with my basic knowledge of rudimentary Spanish, but I couldn't do it this time.

Had it not been for the recent hurricanes and the exodus of hospital personnel, we would have a translator at our disposal. But not today. I was left to my own devices to figure out what made this man seek medical assistance.

The nurse, sensing our difficulty, quietly excused herself from the clinic room and promptly returned with a med student. A dark haired, olive skinned Hispanic med student.

My patient looked over at the med student and his face lit up. Finally, a person that could understand him! My patient then started talking to our newly arrived interpretor. I looked on, relieved that my frustrations would come to an end.

The med student listened intently to the patient, nodding appropriately. And when the patient had finished telling him about his illness, the student turned to me and said, "Hey man, I'm Pakistani. I don't speak Spanish..."