You’re in the middle of another day at the downtown clinic. You work here often as an interpreter serving the large Hispanic community. Some of the patients have even gotten to know you a bit. You’ve built up trust because you’ve worked hard to really speak their language and show them you care.
You’re pretty sure you could diagnose the patient yourself. The presence of surfer’s eye – pterygium – is pretty obvious. You haven’t spent all this time with medical people without picking up a thing or two! But you wait until the doctor gives the clear diagnosis. Then you pull up the Spanish medical dictionary in your brain and explain to the patient that he has pterigión.
When the patient gives you a blank stare, you decide to try a more on-the-street explanation in case it helps. You know the patient is of Guatemalan heritage, so you pull out one of your speaking-like-a-local-phrases and say, “Tal vez lo llaman carnosidad del ojo.”
The patient grins, “Ah, sí. Ya entiendo.”
You smile and go on to explain the treatment and answer questions.
That night, you pull Understanding the Guatemalan Patient off your handy shelf and put a check mark by “pterygium carnosidad del ojo”.
You like to keep track of the terms you’ve used from this little book. So far, you’ve used quite a few. It makes you happy to know that you were able to continue serving and building trust today because you knew just the words to use. Maybe you’ll look through this pocket-size book tonight to give yourself a refresher.
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