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Get Your Medical History In Another Language

In The Hospital And You Don’t Speak The Language. Now What?



Do you like new places, the sort where you step off a plane and think, “It looks normal enough,” but you know it’s not?

You know because you showed up after language immersion and Rosetta Stone, and you still don’t understand what anyone says.

This happens to brave travelers, intrepid souls, people who have no idea what’s in store for them.

What exactly is in store for them?

The baby boomer traveler who loves a mystery isn’t afraid of jumping into the deep end of another culture.

Language, they say? Ha. I’m a great actor. I’ll mime my way through. And you can. Except not when you’re in a semi-coma from pneumonia.

For the sake of clarity, pneumonia isn’t a cold. It’s a killer that’ll take you down like getting hit by a bus.

Say you’re in a hot country in the hottest time of the year. It’s a modern nation with a reliable electrical grid and air conditioners.

If you’re the traveler who likes going off the beaten path, who likes older places, the quaint loveliness you don’t find in the tourist mall, or group shopping experience, then beware.

You probably enjoy staying in the same sort of places. If that’s the case, look at the air conditioner in your room. Is it old? Does it look like it’s been serviced within the decade? Does it leak?

Ignore the condition of the air conditioner and suffer the consequences. It’s been a hundred and ten degrees outside all day. All you want is a fresh bed and a cool room to snuggle into. To get there, you turn the AC all the way up.

In the middle of the night you wake up short of breath.

You wake your sweetheart up and tell them you’re short of breath. They leap out of bed and and start packing a bag. Why? Because you’re going to the hospital. No one wants to wake up with their honey dead in the bed and explain what happened.

You don’t speak the language, remember?

Shortness of breath goes away when they sit up, so they say they’ll wait until morning and reevaluate. Except an hour later they wake up and it’s worse. Thoughts of Legionnaire’s Disease come into focus.

By 2:30 in the morning the two of you are in the local emergency room. One of you gets an arterial blood draw to check oxygen levels while another staffer peppers them with medical questions. At least they sound like medical questions. You don’t answer because you don’t speak the language.

A slow panic seeps into the night. This doesn’t have to happen.

Avoid the panic by taking a list of your medications and medical history in the language of the country you’re visiting. If you don’t know you’re blood, get typed before you go.

Unless part of your travel adventure is getting locked down in a hospital with the same hygiene as a bad locker room,  where noxious fumes drift out of shower drains, where a water puddle shows up on the eighth floor but it’s not leaking from the ceiling and the staff deals with it by covering it with chucks, get you blood type and medical info in order.

You’ve got a passport for border crossings. Take your medical info for the language barrier.

(Inspired by Sara Tetreault, the creator of Go Gingham, Stylishly Frugal Living. Give her a click.)



About David Gillaspie
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