“Hola, mi nombre es Ambulance Driver. Soy paramédico.” (Translation: Howdy, they call me AD. I’m a medic.)
“¡Dé gracias a Dios, ayuda a ha llegado! ¡Y ellos hablan español, también!” (Thank God, help has arrived! And they speak Spanish, too!)
Dumb look. (no translation needed) “Uhhhh…¿Qué es su nombre?” (Uhhhh…what is your name?)
“Hola, Juan!” (Thank God your name isn’t Esteban Jesus Sanchez de Castillo) ¿Qué pasa? (What’s the matter?)
“El pecho se siente como un elefante que sienta en lo, y yo me siento enfermo al estómago.” (My chest feels like an elephant sitting on it, and I feel sick to my stomach.)
“Uhhh…puede hablar más despacio? Yo sólo hablo un poco de español.” (Uhhh…can you speak more slowly, please? I only speak a little Spanish.)
“Pecho duele. Ir a vomitar. Usted idiota.” (Chest hurts. Gonna puke. You idiot.)
“Pardner, put some oxygen on him, get some vitals, slip him some aspirin and Nitro, and run a 12-lead EKG.” (Because some things need no translation, and I am fluent in Sick Person.)
“¿Qué dijo usted?” (What did you say?)
“Un momento, por favor.” (Don’t rush me, Juan. I left my freakin’ Spanish translator in my locker and I have just about exhausted my entire command of the Spanish language.) “Uhhhh…pecho? Pecho duele?” (Uhhh…chest? Chest hurts?)
“Sí, el pecho duele.” (Yes, my chest hurts.)
“Muy bueno.” (Very good.)
“Muy bueno? MUY BUENO?? ¿Qué significa usted, ‘muy bueno’?” (Very good? VERY GOOD? What do you mean, ‘very good’?) And lots of what I think were expletives deleted.
“¿Duele el pecho cuando usted respira?” (Does my chest hurt when you breathe?)
“Jesús dulce, este idiota permitirá que mí morirme.” (Sweet Jesus, this idiot is going to let me die.) Plus, the rolling eyes kind of gave it away.
“¿Hay alguien aquí que habla inglés?” (Is there someone here who speaks English?) Because I know when I’m in over my head.
Now, it should be mentioned here that I have tried to learn Spanish. I bought a self-instructional CD called Spanish for Medical Professionals a few years back, and I intend to take it out of the shrink wrap very soon. Really. Or I could just ask my kid who, thanks to Dora the Explorer, has a Spanish vocabulary that dwarfs my own. If I ever need to ask a patient, “Can you find the Rainbow Bridge? How about the Singing Mountain? Say MAP!”, I’ll be ready.
Down here in south Louisiana, there is an untapped market for a Cajun French for Medical Professionals CD, because my college Parisian bears about the same resemblance to spoken Cajun French that Yorkshire English resembles the dialect of say, Bugtussle, Texas.
I’m going to keep trying, even though attempting to learn a second language is a significant concession to my long-held conviction that one only needs to know a few choice phrases in any foreign language:
1. “One beer, please.”
2. “Take me to the U.S. embassy.”
3. “Where is the men’s room?”
4. “How much for an hour, and can your friend join us?”
5. “I swear I didn’t realize she was your girlfriend.” (You know, just in case you say #4 to the wrong person.)
The rest of the call went fairly well, because Pardner happened to carry his trusty EMS Field Guide (with rudimentary Spanish/English dictionary) in the cargo pocket of his EMT britches. Between the field guide and pantomimes, we were able to communicate fairly well:
AD: (Flipping through the pages of the field guide) “¿EN OTRA OCASION HAS TENIDO ESTE DOLOR?” (Have you ever had this pain before?) Spoken very loudly of course, because everyone knows that added volume can overcome any language barrier.
AD: (flip, flip, flip) “…DIFICULTAD PARA RESPIRAR?” (Trouble breathing?)
Juan: (rolling his eyes again) “Si.”
AD: (accompanied by puke faces) “EL VOMITO?” (Because suffixing “O” to every word also helps)
Juan: (no doubt mentally counting to ten) “Si.”
AD: (about to stick an IV) “BIG-O STICK-O, MI AMIGO!” (Big stick, my friend!)
Juan: “OW! Chingalla tu madre, gringo!”
I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. I’m going to go look it up, but I’m pretty sure it means “Thank you for your kindness and medical expertise, my new white friend.”
Or something like that. I’ll let you know.