I don’t mind seeing our Spanish speaking patients.  Granted, my Spanish is very limited.  I can ask about chest pain, fever, vomiting, tingling, say open your mouth, squeeze my hand, etc.  It’s not pretty, but it seems to get the job done; in close conjunction with the ATT language line, of course.

But last night was a, how do you say, conundrum.  Spanish we can handle.  But even the translator was bumfuzzled by tequila Spanish.  ‘Doctor, I can’t understand him.’

‘Neither can I.’

Meanwhile, on the backboard after either an altercation or a fall, or a meteor strike to the head, our patient was happily joking, smiling and gesticulating his arms wildly in a vain attempt to explain his condition to the English speaking, confused care-givers and the Spanish speaking, confused translator.  Admittedly, he had a fine tenor voice when he sang.  I think I heard the word ‘corazon!’  But then, every song in Spanish has to do with the corazon, doesn’t it?

His confession of imbibing both cerveza and tequila was handily confirmed by his blood alcohol of 360mg/dl.  Over time, we learned where he lived, that he was a bookie and that he loved America and American music…which he sang, also, in Spanish.

Since I don’t speak Spanish, I can only infer from the conversation he had on the speaker phone.  I think it went like this:

‘Hello sir, I’m the translator.  Your doctor wants to ask you some questions.  Where are you hurting?’

‘When I was a boy, I loved football.  Tonight, I was hit on the head by the chupa cabra.  Or bigfoot.  You sound pretty!’

‘Sir, you need to pay attention.  Were you in a fight, or knocked unconscious?’

‘I’m a bookie, you know that?  Did you lose money on the final four?  I’d love some cookies, how about you.  You smell nice.’

‘Sir, we’re on the phone.  You can’t smell me.  But you  know, some cookies would be nice.   You have an excellent singing voice.’

‘Ay, ay, ay, ay…’

‘Sir, stop it.  The nurse wants to know if you take medicine.’

‘The nurse is the chupa cabra.  I take only vitamins, minerals, tequila and Jack-in-the-Box egg rolls.’

‘Those are good.  Please, focus.  Are you allergic to anything?’

‘Si.  I’m allergic to love.  But not to you.  Wow, my parietal scalp hurts tonight!  I believe I sustained a laceration.’

‘I’m going to tell the doctor that you were abducted by aliens.’

‘Sounds good to me.  Can I call you?  What’s your name?

‘Sir, my name is William.’

‘Oh.  Ay, ay, ay, ay…’

‘Doctor, the patient is drunk.  Good luck.  I don’t get paid enough for this.  I’m going back to Microsoft.’

Eventually, after CT scans, X-rays and all the rest, he was fine.  His wound closed, his singing silenced in the bliss of sweet sleep, he spent the night in the ER (my gift to my night-shift partner) and found his way home in the morning.

I’m simply going to have to knock back some tequila and learn to speak Spanish properly.  Because sober Spanish is clearly inadequate.

Buenos Noches,

Eduardo, el doctor


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