Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I rolled out of the OR with my patient and wheeled her into the recovery room. The nursing staff met us at the door and helped to get my patient into the recovery bay. I was happy to see that one of the nurses assigned to my 90-year old patient was a friend of mine.

Me: Hey Sara, this lady is Spanish speaking only, OK?

Sara: Sure, no problem.

I didn't know if Sara spoke Spanish or not. It's amazing to see the increase in the number of Spanish speaking only patients that frequent the hospital. I have a rudimentary grasp of Spanish, thanks to some high-school classes and several friends that spoke Spanish during medical school. But I'm far from being able to satisfactorally converse in Spanish.

I don't even bother pretending to know what the hell I'm saying. I simply say my "hola" and ask about "dolor". Beyond that, I feel as if I'm doing my Spanish speaking patients a disservice with my pathetic babbling. I usually just call in the medical interpretor.

As I watched Sara walk confidently toward my patient, it looked like she could be fluent in Spanish. Or at least knew enough to converse with my patient without a translator.

Sara: [To my patient] Aloha!

My patient, thankfully still a bit groggy from the anesthesia, didn't seem to catch it. I, on the other hand, looked at Sara in disbelief. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I just stood there in stunned silence. Sara, noticing my stare, paused and looked back at me.

Sara: What?

Me: What are doing?

Sara: What?

Me: You said "Aloha" to my patient.

Sara: So?

Me: So? So? She's Hispanic, not Hawaiian!

Sara: What? What did I say?

Me: "Aloha" Like, Hawaii Aloha.

I then proceed to mimic the hula dance, waving my arms to first one side and then the other.

Sara: Ohmygod. I got confused because she looked just like Pocahontas.

Me: Sara, Pocahontas wasn't Hawaiian either.