Tag Archives: Latin American healthcare

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!

 

 

 

Another way to say “pterygium”

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.

Purchase your copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient  today on Amazon!

canilla

You’ve dreamed of this day. You’ve studied and saved for this day. Now here it is: your first day seeing patients with a medical mission team in Guatemala.

The still-cool morning breezes waft through the metal screens over the windows of the concrete building. You smile at your first patient, a man from the campo who looks like he has labored long throughout his life, and begin a conversation. Since you’ve studied Spanish for several years now, your team decided you don’t need one of the in-demand interpreters as much as other team members, so you’re on your own for this conversation. Shouldn’t be hard, right?

Then your patient says, “Me duele mi canilla.” 

Your optimistic thoughts screech to a halt. Canilla? You’ve never heard that word! So much for those years of studying. The way he set his worn hand on his leg makes you think there’s some connection, but you want to know…and you don’t want your ignorance to make him feel uncomfortable.

You calmly look around. No interpreters nearby.

Then you remember that little blue book your dad gave you when he dropped you off at the airport. “Might come in handy,” he said.

You pull it out of the bag on the table next to you. It’s a glossary. Where are the “c” words? Oh, yay, there it is! 

canilla – leg, lower leg

You look your patient in the eye with a smile and say, “¿Se duele su canilla?” You set your hand on your leg like he had. “¿Cómo su pierna?

¡Sí!” He nods his head vigorously. “Me duele mi canilla.”

Oh, good! Now you can continue with your consultation.

Later you get a chance to ask one of the translators about canilla. He laughs. “Canilla is like an animal’s leg,” he says. “People, especially those who grew up speaking a Mayan language and speak Spanish as a second language, use it for a person’s leg, too.”

Ah, now you understand even better. And maybe tonight you’ll look through more of those words from that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. It seems like it really might come in handy.

Gearing up for a medical mission trip to Guatemala or know someone who is? Maybe you’ll want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. Check it out on Amazon today!

 

kneecap

“Me duele la tapita,” your patient says, gingerly touching her knee, to the interpreter next to you.

“Her kneecap hurts,” the interpreter informs you.

You proceed with the office visit, but your brain is wondering, Didn’t I just learn that ‘tapita’ means bottle cap? (You’ve been trying to learn a little Spanish yourself.)

Before the interpreter leaves, you get to ask her.

“Yes, according to your regular Spanish-English medical dictionary rótula is actually the word for kneecap, but I have this.” She pulls a blue, pocket-sized book from her purse.

You look at the title. ‘Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. Pretty long name for such a small book.”

She laughs. “I know, right? Well, there are more than 600 terms just in the Spanish-English section, a lot of them slang. Since many of the people we serve here are Guatemalans who don’t speak real dictionary Spanish. It’s helped me out more than once. See? Right here in the English-Spanish section.”

Kneecap – tapita.”

“That’s right. I love it when I know just the right word to make our patients feel understood.”

jaundice

One glance at the baby tells you the diagnosis. “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? 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.  

head

As 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.

 

head (n.)

coco, morra, ayote, chirimoya, maceta, ñola, sesera, shola