From the 14th to the 19th, I worked as an interpreter for a medical brigade in Cololaca, Lempira, a town about 3 hours from San Ramón. I worked with several other PCVs and team of doctors that came down from Arkansas to provide free medical care for a week.
It was a really rewarding experience. I worked in triage the week with a sassy nurse named Renessa. She was fun to work with because she was a ‘take no crap’ kind of person. While she did vital signs, I would ask the person what was wrong with them and then tell Renessa what they told me. In the beginning, I would ask a lot of questions but learned that I should ask as little as possible. Here is why:
K: Tell me why you’re here today.
-Well, I have headaches and body aches. And a shooting pain throughout my arm.
K: A pain in your arm or numbness?
-Yes. (Yes to the pain or to the numbness?)
-And pain in my stomach too.
K: Like a burning?
-Yeah, that too.
Basically, they would agree to anything I suggested because they wanted as many free pain medications as they could get. Renessa knew that and would write on their triage sheet in capital letters, in English, ‘DO NOT GIVE MORE THAN ONE BAG OF IBUPROFIN’ which made me laugh.
Throughout the week, I heard interesting descriptions of their symptoms and there were times when I really had to think for a bit about how those descriptions translate to English.
“I feel as though chicken wire is in my body” = “I have pain throughout my body”
“I have squirrels in my stomach” = “I’m suffering from stomach pains”
It was cool because there were many people who came that really needed help. A girl came in with penny sized holes in her feet, a boy came in with botflies in his leg, several women came in with cysts that needed to be drained…and all these services were done for free.
The coolest person I talked to was on the last day though. She told me all her symptoms and I asked if there was anything else. She hesitated for a few seconds then poured out,
“I am having problems having an orgasm with my husband. Everyone seems to enjoying it except for me. Is it my fault or my husband’s?”
Wow. I give this woman credit because that is something hard to talk about in any culture, but especially in one where talking about sex is still taboo. I also had to control my desire to laugh because she caught me off guard. I just told her that she can talk to the doctor about it more in depth. Now that I look back on it, I wish I had talked to her more because it would have been an interesting conversation.