Its About That Time

When I lived in San Francisco in the 90’s, there were earthquakes. A lot of earth quakes. Some larger. Some smaller. You took them in your stride. But you started to be able to understand the difference between the various kinds. ‘Rolling’ was better than the ‘Jerk and Snap’. That did more damage to people and property.

But I remember one that happened on a Sunday Morning when I had moved out of the city down to San Mateo on the Pennisula. It was a rolling quake and I could hear the roar – kind of like a lion – coming towards me and it was getting rapidly louder. It came in a wave, shook the house during the loudest bit, and then roared away. When I saw the first Harry Potter and Voldemort’s spirit goes through Harry holding the sorcerers stone – that’s what it was like. I later learned that the sound waves of a quake often precede the shaking.

That’s where I’ve been since last Summer. I’ll be 53 this July, so as a woman I’m at that age when it all begins – or ends, depending on your perspective. The symptoms started like that distant roar from the earthquake. I heard little warnings – but nothing big. Then, starting last Fall the roar has gotten louder and some of the symptoms more worrisome. So much so that I couldn’t ignore it anymore and last week decided to get some medical advice.

Yes, I have a doctor that speaks Ingles, but she referred me to another specialist whose ability to communicate with me is less than what I need right now. And her nurse just points and grunts – not even in Spanish or English. I mean, my ability to speak Spanish under medical stress isn’t where I want it to be, but normally I understand a lot. If they speak more slowly than normal. Otherwise, I’m forced to use my powers of observation. And that’s ripe for misinterpretation.

So I took myself to the specialist appointment yesterday and they were right on time. I must say, the offices are like a nice Spa and there are no complaints with how they do the business of medicine and patient privacy. I was taken back and then told to disrobe. This is where the trouble started.

I’ve encountered it before when getting massages here. In the US we take off our clothes to get a massage – all of them. Here they don’t do that. So the nurse at the Dr. office was taken aback that I disrobed completely – even with the robe for modesty. It’s a freaking doctor! Whatever. I wasn’t the mood for it.

Then as they’re checking my various lady bits, they start making faces to each other and speaking in rapid fire Spanish. The nurse looks at me nervously and then the Dr. says something to her. Now I’m freaked out.

‘Is everything OK?’ I ask the doctor – looking at the nurse’s face.

No one answers me but they keep talking to each other so fast I can’t understand, and still the faces looking at me. Grimaces and wide eyes. Like cartoon characters. There was no mistaking it. ‘Oh that’s not good’ isn’t said out loud in English but their faces are yelling it at me.

‘Seriously? Is everything OK?’ I ask again. Nothing.

Finally I try ‘Hola! Por favor.’

This seems to break their exchange and they realize I’m a human over whose body they are discussing things with faces that look like I’m not long for it. The nurse nervously leaves the room and the doctor smiles at me a weak smile.

‘It’s fine. We are going to order some tests. It will be fine.’ But her face is the one I gave Emilie after a serious bike accident that required hospitalization. I wanted her to remain calm, while inside I was freaking out!

I try to ask more questions but she clearly doesn’t understand me enough to answer in a way that is helpful – for either of us. And then I realized, with everything I’ve overcome moving here – navigating travel/transit, ordering food, driving, getting our visas renewed, etc. – when I need to understand the most important things about my time of life health, I’m lost. And with all the other stuff I’m experiencing, I’m more emotional than normal. So I teared up. This makes her more uncomfortable and she clearly wants me to get out of there as soon as possible.

She tells me to go out to reception to get the information on the scheduled tests right away and then tells me.

‘Next time I see you, you will know more Spanish.’

I asked her when I would be seeing her and she told me right after the tests on Wednesday. I’m not sure if she thinks I’m some sort of language savant or if there is some magic they put in the water they gave me, but she’s in for a sad disappointment.

I’m not going to say I ever loved my doctors in the US, any more than this specialist. It always felt like the Burger King drive thru when you went to your appointment back home. They barely looked at you. But the one thing they could do, when it really mattered, was speak to me in my own language and answer my questions. Because God knows, no one wants me Googling this stuff. Least of all Jeff. He’s made me promise.

I do understand that I’m just at the beginning of this journey. It will get worse before it gets better. And no one knows how long it will take. There are people who tell horror stories (Yes, I mean you Mom) and others who tell me it’s really not a big deal. But no one I know have ever gone through it in Spain, in a language not their own. I guess either way, I can hear the lion and the roar it getting louder. But I can take comfort that it will eventually, after the really strong shaking, roar away.

5 thoughts on “Its About That Time

  • Thanks Carol, for following up. I have some results back but not the pathology yet. I can’t complain. Those who performed everything all spoke English and for some of my tests they had the results before left the room. So no sitting in a waiting room stressing – they just told me right there and I went to see my Dr after. I’ll know more either tomorrow or Monday on the other stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Yes, I understand. The neutral translator-advocate person is a good idea. I hope that you can arrange for something liked that. Milito said that someone in that hospital speaks English and can help you. He worked in a major hospital in Baltimore for 30 years. He is a stationary engineer working in the basement with the boilers and chillers. Many, many times, nurses would call him to the emergency room to translate for the people who couldn’t speak English about their injuries. My point is, I am sure that the hospital in Valencia can do better for you than calling a worker up from the basement to translate.
    Stay calm and keep breathing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks Carol. Good suggestions I’m thinking I’d rather hire a neutral translator than take a friend. Most of my girlfriends are native non-Spanish speakers (a few are). But also, medical stuff is sort of private stuff. While I’ve talked with friends about some of whats’ going on – I don’t want them in on the gruesome details (if you know what I mean – especially after the face on the nurse). I’m thinking of asking the hospital for recommendations. They’re the premier private hospital here and they have to deal with a lot of foreigners on private insurance. I want to have a third party who can discuss options, should it come to that. And help be my advocate. They had those liaison type people back in the US. We had one when Jeff was in the trauma unit after his accident and I didn’t need them for language translation. I’m not quite sure if they do that here. Either way – I have to go back to the US soon until the end of August so whatever is going on it will have to require a band aid until I get back. Deep Breath.

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  • I am so sorry that you went through that. I know that it was scary not knowing what they were talking about amongst themselves. It happened to me last summer when I was in agonising pain in my back. Milito is explaining to the specialist my problem and they are discussing it like I wasn’t there, no pausing for a translation. But, I did have a translator with me. Is there not one of your friends who could go with you to translate? I know it is sensitive info but better that you know exactly what is being said and you can ask questions. Or maybe look for a different doctor even if out of network of your insurance.
    Not by Wednesday but, soon your Spanish will be much better, enabling you to communicate with doctors. You have come a long way in a little over a year and should be very proud of yourself. I hope that your test results are good news. ☺

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