Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lost in translation




Faces at the market

So, somehow on our trip I was designated as 'the translator'. Yes, I speak Spanish, I can read and write it and I understand it if the person is speaking slowly. But, medical Spanish...well, that just wasn't a class I took in college. Business, yes. Travel, yes. But not medical Spanish. I learned enough of it to get a shot in my 'bomba' (booty) once when we were on vacation. I had an allergic reaction to something and had a full body rash...that was fun. Anyway, there was a woman named Sandy from CA on the trip. She is a breast cancer survivor and became a nurse at the age of 55. She is a pediatric home care nurse for critical patients...we would have benefited from her care had Noah come home with us. She brought supplies with her to measure blood sugar levels and take blood pressure for people unable to access medical care. She chose me to be her interpreter. So, I told her that we should pray no one dies while I'm on the clock and we set out...We went to two different migrant worker camps* and set up a table and some chairs in the dirt next to the effluent water running down the road. We were able to assess many people, most with good blood pressure and healthy blood sugar levels, but between the two camps, we encountered about a dozen people with potential diabetes. I was honored to work beside Sandy and help her use her gift of nursing and to point the people in the direction of the free medical clinic in town for further assessment.

Because the migrant camps are usually located in the worst barrios, our main contact did not want the two of us ladies out there doing our street side clinic on our own. So, the second day 3 guys came along, bringing bubbles for the children and gum and such. They weren't bodyguards, but more of a presence. Well, our final 'patient' was Francisco, a beautiful old man of 70 years. He sat down in the chair, got his finger pricked, his blood pressure checked and waited. He was squirming a little as he waited, but all results were healthy, 'normal' in Spanish, which is pronounced nor mall. Well, he didn't get up from the seat when he was finished but proceeded to rattle off in Spanish something about problemas when he urinates...I mentioned to Sandy that he wanted to talk about his problemas. The 'bodyguards' suddenly were interested in where I would go with this one...Sandy wanted to know if his 'stream' was strong or weak? I said, "Cuando Ud. urina, es mas fuerte or mas despacio?" He said, "A veces es fuerte y despacio a veces." (Strong or slow/weak) Sandy said it was probably his prostate. I asked him how long he had the problema. He said 20 years. I translated to Sandy that it has been like that for 20 years. She said that he probably has an enlarged prostate, but since it's been like that for 20 years, it's probably normal for him. All 'bodyguards' eyes were on me. I kept looking around, thinking, and finally revealed to my little audience that I didn't know the word for prostate and as much as I wanted to tell him it was likely enlarged, I did not want to 'compliment' him by telling him he had grande pelotas or a grande package, so...I had to tell him it was nor mall for him. In the van on the way back to Motel Sanchez, after a good laugh, I asked everyone to hold me accountable to taking a medical Spanish class within the next year to at least learn the word for 'prostate'.

*A migrant worker camp is usually a U-shaped community of 10'x10' rooms where workers from the mountains come down to the valley to work the fields. They bring their families and live in horrible conditions for several months at a time. There is no electricity or running water.

2 comments:

  1. dictionary.com says.....

    prostate - prĂ³stata

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  2. He he! That is funny, and you told it very well. I will ask you the next time I see you if you have a class scheduled. :)

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