Tag Archives: community healthcare in Latin America

¡Felicidades a Guatemala!

Congratulations to Guatemala on her new president-elect Jimmy Morales! We hope and pray that Jimmy Morales will be a true servant-leader for his country. May truth and justice prevail under his leadership, and may Guatemala flourish in the years ahead.

In honor of the election held this past Sunday, we are offering another “BOGO” (Buy One, Get One) sale on Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. For each copy you purchase (up to 10 copies) between now and midnight on Monday, November 2, you will receive another copy FREE! This is a perfect offer for organizations or teams working in Guatemala. No coupon code required, so make your purchase today!

Baby Cheeks & Folk Medicine Practices (A Story about Cachetes)

 

IMG_9973

Here’s a Guatemalan baby being carried on his mother’s back. Don’t you love the colorful fabrics?

“Aw, Tía Elena, look at that baby!” Emily said. Together, aunt and niece watched the little fellow being carried through the mall.

“Those cheeks!” Tía Elena smiled. “Now we might call those cachetes.”

Emily had to grin. As a Spanish-English interpreter, her Tía Elena couldn’t help dropping in a little language lesson now and then. “Cachetes, huh?”

, and it looks like his mamá took good care of them, too.” She stopped in front of a mirror and gave a silly smile. “Kind of like mine. No sagging cheeks for me!”

Emily giggled at her aunt’s antics.

“You can laugh,” Tía Elena said, “but if my mamita had stood me up on my little baby feet too early, my cheeks might have ‘fallen’ and been saggy for life!”

Emily raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Well, that’s what Mamá thought until a doctor kindly told her not to worry about it much. And look at me now!” She gave her cheeks one last playful pat before hauling Emily off to her favorite shoe store.

That night, Emily decided to check out Tía Elena’s story. Sure enough, her smartphone delivered  the answer: her tía hadn’t made it up! Hey, this Understanding the Guatemalan Patient looks pretty cool! Maybe I could get it for Tía Elena for Christmas. She’d like it. And it would even be small enough to fit in her huge-but-almost-full purse! Emily added the book to her Amazon cart and proceeded to checkout.

Looking for a gift for a medical interpreter or a language lover? Full of interesting words and folk medicine/cultural tidbits, Understanding the Guatemalan Patient is sure to bring hours of education and fun. And with our “BOGO” (Buy-1-Get-One) special offer through midnight (CDT) on Monday, October 19, 2015, there’s even more reason to check it out today! (No coupon code required.)

 

A little tip for those serving Guatemalan babies and their families…

One glance at the baby makes the diagnosis obvious. “Tiene ictericia,” you tell the Guatemalan mother. Bewilderment covers her face. You carefully explain the causes and treatments for jaundice. All of a sudden, the mother smiles and says, “Pues, es como amarillo, verdad?” Amarillo? Yellow? Of course, that could make sense. That’s when you remember the pocket-sized book you stuffed in your bag a while ago. You find it and look through the English-Spanish section. There it is:

jaundice amarillo 

Now it’s your turn to smile. “Sí, es como amarillo,” you confirm. As you answer a couple of the mother’s questions, you make a mental note to look through that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient tonight.

It started at the dinner table…

Dinner table post pic

By Kristen A. Hammer

It started at the dinner table in our home in Guatemala – the same dinner table that Dad (Dr. Steven Hammer) and some friends had made years earlier out of two sheets of plywood. At that dinner table, Dad began pulling bits of paper out of his shirt pocket. Those bits of paper held his notes about words or folk medicine practices he had learned from his patients that day. As he read his jottings to us, some made us curious and ask questions, some made us groan, and some made us laugh.

You see, while Guatemala’s national language is, of course, Spanish, twenty-some Mayan languages are still spoken there as well. During the nine years Dad spent in Guatemala, he served many patients who spoke Spanish as a second language and, thus, used some words differently or mixed with their Mayan tongue. Combine that fact with an average education level of second grade and you have a recipe for some pretty interesting health ideas! Throw in Guatemalans’ love for slang, and your conversations are bound to be as flavorful as a Christmas tamale.

I personally found those mealtime conversations intriguing. After all, I was the girl who had considered becoming a brain surgeon and a writer. Dad’s stories from the clinic melded my interest in science and my love for words and people together. Those mealtime conversations were the start of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. More importantly to me, they and other conversations with the many visitors who ate with us are among my favorite Guatemala memories.

In the 21st century, many families find it hard to gather around the dinner table together. However, the benefits – like healthier eating habits and lower incidence of drug and alcohol use in youth – make it worth the fight. The healthier eating habits associated with family meals may especially benefit Hispanic youth and other minorities who face a higher risk of diabetes.[1] So, whether you are getting into your school-year routines in the US or heading toward school vacations like our friends in Guatemala, why not make the effort to gather around your table often with family and friends? Since September 15 started National Hispanic Heritage Month, you may even want to include some Hispanic food in your bill of fare. Whether it’s quesadillas, tacos, platanos fritos, chiles rellenos or mole poblano, enjoy the time together. Who knows? Someday you might even be saying, “It started at the dinner table…”

 

[1] American Diabetes Association, “Overall Numbers, Diabetes and Prediabetes” http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/  (accessed 21 September 2015).

There are many articles online about the value of shared meals. Here are a few that I read in preparing this post that you may find useful as well:

Amber J. Hammons, PhD, Barbara H. Flese PhD Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents?” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/e1565.full 

Sarah Klein, “8 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinner” http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20339151,00.html 

Jeanie Lerche Davis, “Family Dinners Are Important: 10 reasons why, and 10 shortcuts to help get the family to the table.” http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/family-dinners-are-important 

¿Me duele mi…coco?: A Taste of Guatemalan Slang

hrum-coconutAs you chat with your Hispanic patient, he tells you that his “coco” hurts. You know he doesn’t mean chocolate, and you’re quite sure he doesn’t really mean “coconut”…In fact, you are nearly positive he means his “head” hurts and can get right to the heart of that matter. After all, you read about it in the English-Spanish section of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient last night. The best part? Your patient feels like you really can communicate together.

Would you like to learn not only other slang expressions for “head” but also other words and folk medicine tidbits to help you communicate with the Guatemalans you serve? Check out Understanding the Guatemalan Patient today!

Cachetes

 

IMG_9973

Here’s a Guatemalan baby being carried on his mother’s back. Don’t you love the colorful fabrics?

“Aw, Tía Elena, look at that baby!” Emily said. Together, aunt and niece watched the little fellow being carried through the mall.

“Those cheeks!” Tía Elena smiled. “Now we might call those cachetes.”

Emily had to grin. As a Spanish-English interpreter, her Tía Elena couldn’t help dropping in a little language lesson now and then. “Cachetes, huh?”

, and it looks like his mamá took good care of them, too.” She stopped in front of a mirror and gave a silly smile. “Kind of like mine. No sagging cheeks for me!”

Emily giggled at her aunt’s antics.

“You can laugh,” Tía Elena said, “but if my mamita had stood me up on my little baby feet too early, my cheeks might have ‘fallen’ and been saggy for life!”

Emily raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Well, that’s what Mamá thought until a doctor kindly told her not to worry about it much. And look at me now!” She gave her cheeks one last playful pat before hauling Emily off to her favorite shoe store.

That night, Emily decided to check out Tía Elena’s story. Sure enough, her smartphone delivered  the answer: her tía hadn’t made it up! Hey, this Understanding the Guatemalan Patient looks pretty cool! Maybe I could get it for Tía Elena’s birthday. She’d like it. And it would even be small enough to fit in her huge-but-almost-full purse! Emily added the book to her Amazon cart and proceeded to checkout.

Looking for a gift for a medical interpreter or a language lover? Full of interesting words and folk medicine/cultural tidbits, Understanding the Guatemalan Patient is sure to bring hours of education and fun. Check it out today! 

 

When a “vulture” entered your conversation…

Summer – at long last! You’ve been so ready to be done with your thick textbooks and exams, and you finally are…at least for a few glorious months. Right now you’re daydreaming about your upcoming trip to Guatemala. You can’t wait to go back. In fact, you’re going through medical school so that you can serve Latin Americans with your hard-won skills.

You start doodling out a packing list. After all, you learned some things on your trip last year. Might as well benefit from them!

Hey, where is that book, the little blue one that your Spanish-interpreter aunt gave you before your last trip? You scour your shelves – or rather the piles on your shelves. (Your organizational skills haven’t recovered from the “finals flurry” yet.) Ah-hah! There it is. Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk MedicineSettling in your overstuffed chair, you flip through the pages. Wow, does it bring back memories! Like that time with the “vulture”…

It was the second day of your first medical mission trip to Guatemala. You were seeing patients under the supervision of an MD with a Spanish interpreter nearby. Your little patient looked to be about five and was having a hard time of it. The interpreter was talking through the symptoms with the mother when a funny word caught your ears. The mom, who was clearly of Mayan descent, was saying something about “zope“.

Since your aunt is a Spanish interpreter Spanish is woven into your life pretty well. But “zope”? Doesn’t that mean “vulture”?

That’s when you remembered that your aunt gave you that book that’s supposed to deal with slang expressions. You pluck it out of your pocket and flip to the “z” words. Yep, there it is: zope.

“So he’s been vomiting?” you ask.

The translator nods. “Yes, how did you know?”

“Well, I speak a little Spanish, but -” You hand her the book. “- my aunt gave me this.”

She skims a couple of pages. “We should have these here.”

“Maybe I can get some to you,” you say with a smile.

Yeah, that was a fun memory. Your Spanish is a lot better this year, but you’re definitely taking this book along again. In fact, maybe you’ll get a couple of extras. Why not check it out on Amazon? Your other team members should have them as a recuerdo if nothing else.

Sometimes it’s the little things…

Some days in your clinic are just plain peanut-butter-and-jelly days – nothing particularly brain stretching, no cases that you could find in Hunter’s Tropical Medicine, no life-saving measures.

The fact that some of your patients are Hispanic, many of Guatemalan or Mexican ancestry, and speak little English adds some salsa to your tortilla chips though. Like the case that just hobbled through your door…

You can’t get more routine than an ingrown toenail, can you? Thankfully, a medical interpreter is handy to help you communicate with this patient and his wife. However, when the interpreter says “uña encarnada“, your patients blink without recognition.

You have your own copy of the Stedman Bilingüe Diccionario de Ciencias Médicas at home – good healthcare providers are life-long learners, right? – so you know that’s the standard medical terminology. But you decide to go out on a limb.

Uñero,” You say.

The wife’s face brightens. “¡Hay, sí! Esta es la palabra que usamos.”

That starts a fast-paced side conversation between them and the interpreter while you set to work, relieving the poor man of his simple but noticeably painful malady.

I’d better give the interpreter a card for Understanding the Guatemalan Patient before she leaves, you decide. After all, sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. 

When a patient has lost his soul…

This is your third medical mission trip to Guatemala, and you’d felt like you’d pretty much see it all. But this latest case has you floored.

You’ve just been told that the patient in front of you has pérdida del alma. Since you’ve read about it in Understanding the Guatemalan Patientyou have a grasp on its basic meaning – “soul loss” – and you know that your patient is exhibiting one of the common symptoms: muteness.

How do you handle a case wrapped in traditions and folk medicine practices like this? One thing you know: you’re glad you’re here to serve.

Want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine so you can be informed of not only slang expressions but also folk illnesses? Check it out on Amazon! And don’t forget our “8 for $48” bulk special ends on Thursday, April 30, 2015!

A Midwife’s Monday

You’re returning to your clinic after visiting a client in her home. Nothing compares to seeing a new mother caring for her healthy baby after you’ve spent months working as a team and just a few days ago made it through the delivery. What you saw today tops your “why-I-love-being-a-midwife” list. If only all your work weeks could start off this way!

Along with that joy, today you have a midwife-in-training along for the ride. She’s bright-eyed and itching to get into things. You decide to redeem the drive time.

“See that little spiral-bound book peeking out of my bag?” you ask.

“The blue one?”

“Yeah. Go ahead and take a look at it. You’re going to need one for yourself.”

The trainee retrieves the book and looks it over. “Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine.  This looks interesting, but, um, I did take medical Spanish in school. Did I say something wrong with the last client?”

“Oh, no, you did well. It’s just that, as you’ve learned, many of the women we serve in this area are from Guatemala. Some of them, like the mother we just visited. speak what I call “dictionary Spanish”. Others speak their own variety. Sometimes they grew up speaking Spanish as a second language after a Mayan dialect.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“I think you’ll see what I mean with our clients this afternoon,” you grin. “Oh, and remember, as a midwife, sometimes your clients look to you for advice on all sorts of things.”

At the beginning of your visit with your next client – a young mother from rural Guatemala accompanied by her cousin – nothing much unusual happens. A few unique words are used, but your trainee catches on quickly. You begin to wonder if you anticipated too much. Then your client says,

Mi hermana me estaba preguntando si usted tendría consejo para ella acerca de su bebé que tiene rozadura.”

You glance at your trainee. She discreetly raises an eyebrow.

Rozadura es cómo pañalitis, ¿verdad?” you question, even though you know the answer. Both are used to mean diaper rash.

Your client smiles and nods, “Sí, es como pañalitis.”

You continue your conversation. Later that afternoon, the midwife-in-training comes to you looking a little less bright-eyed. “I’ve got to admit,” she says, “starting with that first office visit and continuing all afternoon, I’ve found out I don’t know Spanish as well as I thought I did. At least not the way these ladies speak it. And then there are all the folk medicine ideas I’ve never even heard of!”

You’re encouraging nature kicks in. “Don’t worry. I think you’re gonna do great. Learning a language is a life-long adventure. At least it seems like it has been for me.”

“Well,” she says with the smile in her eyes back on, “I know one thing. I’m going to buy myself one of those books.”

Want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient? Check it out on Amazon!