Friday, November 24, 2006

Communication

I was reminded by something I read about an incident I dealt with in summer, at the Heritage Days festival here in Edmonton.

Three ladies of somewhat advanced years came over to the first aid post. One was looking a bit peaky, and she only spoke in Hebrew. The other two were from St. Albert, and all three were Jewish. Their friend was over from Israel - "The area that is currently being bombed", she said, via translation - and had left her medication at her friends house in St. Albert. She had chest pains, and it took quite a long time for the two of us to get the full story.

She ended up feeling fine, as we monitored her and gave her some oxygen. She just needed a little sit in the cool with some water - it was a very hot day. I ended up taking all three of them to the Arabic pavillion on a golf cart, so they could have a look around before they went home. They were all super friendly, and enjoyed the attention. We even had our photos taken with them, lots of fun. They were very impressed with our treatment of them, and with Edmonton in general.

But the point of this was to outline how hard it was to get history and symptoms from someone who doesn't speak your own language. I would ask the translator whilst looking at the patient, and watch as she responded, trying to get an idea of her level of discomfort based on her body language. It was quite the challenge, especially when there is a heart problem and you are trying to determine the severity of it.

It also highlights the two very different areas for us: alert people versus unconcious people. With people who can respond, you can try to find out some information, but it is often misleading, or they focus on the 'wrong' thing. With unconcious people, you treat what you find, which can often be simpler, but also way more scary and complicated.
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