Culture Clash

Early in my career as a street medic, when I was still in the fire service, we rolled in on a lady in her mid-forties with chest pain. A twelve-year old girl led us back to her bedroom, past a living room full of people dressed in black. My first thought was they'd just been to a funeral since they all seemed so downcast and quiet.

The young girl turned out to be essential to patient care as the lady we were called to treat was a recent arrival from the Azores and spoke no English (and while my Spanish was okay, it didn't cross over well enough back then).

We determined the lady more likely was having chest-wall pain rather than a cardiac episode, but we transported her anyway for a full evaluation. We received permission for the young lady to accompany the patient to the hospital to act as an interpreter. On the way in, I asked about the people in the living room; I thought perhaps there had been a death and that had precipitated my patient's problem.

The young lady replied that they were all relatives and they were gathered there for my patient. When I inquired why, she very matter of factly told me that where they came from, people with chest pain went to the hospital and simply died. So they'd gathered the relatives around for a mourning period before they called for the ambulance.

I had an interesting chat with the on-duty social worker, advising her about the soon-to-be-arriving party-in-mourning and how she'd have to be the one to tell them the patient would likely be going home with them in an hour or so...

04/18/2001 * || send comment