This blog is about new entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known) in June 1962. Please address all communications to: firstname.lastname@example.org.You may bookmark this page for easier access later.
Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
We all respect experienced doctors, teachers etc. I
would like to tell my experience with an interpreter. At that time I was
working in a missionary hospital in Ondo state, Nigeria. Ondo state was 2/3rd
the size of Sri Lanka and in late seventies, there were only two hospitals for
the whole state - a state hospital and the missionary hospital.
I had an interpreter as I had no knowledge of the
local language named “euroba”. His name was Emmanuel but fondly called Manuel.
He was a taxi driver but unfortunately lost his whole left arm during a car
crash. So the Irish nuns who were in charge of the hospital had employed him as
an interpreter. His knowledge of English language was very good. His job was to
interpret for me and to keep a record of the name, age, sex and the diagnosis
of the patient.
One day I saw a child with swellings of interphalangeal
joints resembling rheumatoid arthritis. So I told Manuel that the diagnosis is
juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Manuel looked at me and said madam in your
country that may be the name, but in Africa we call it sickle cell arthritis. I
have never seen a sickler before and when I looked at the child’s old notes it
said that he is a sickler. Then I knew that Manuel is correct. So I told him to
write sickle cell arthritis.
Another day an old man came with dry gangrene of his
little toe. I looked at Manuel and said that the man has dry gangrene. Tthen he
said yes, it is an ainham. I have never heard of this diagnosis and I did not Know
the treatment. So I told Manuel that I will write some medicine. Manuel said
yes a pain killer would help him, otherwise nothing should be done as it falls
off on its own. So I read my Baily and love as soon as I came home and there it
was in small print.” Ainham” a dry gangrene of toe specifically found in Africa
and it falls off as Manuel said.
The patients who come to the OPD stay seated on
benches till their number is called. Manuel had the habit of bringing ladies
out of the queue. At first I thought they were known people to him but he said
no, I am bringing ladies whom I think has ectopic gestation because if they
wait in the queue their condition will become worse. Everytime I examined them
they all had ectopic pregnancies. I was puzzled and I wanted to know what makes
Manuel to suspect them as ectopics. So I asked him. His reply was that he
notice them because they look pale and sick so he goes and asks them about
their periods and bleeding PV.
Then he used to call men out of the queue telling me
that they have tetanus. When I examine they do have tetanus. Again as a reply
to my inquiry he said that he notices their walk which is very stiff and then
he suspects tetanus.
Also Manuel had the habit of walking to the wards when
I am having my tea. One day he told me that the house officer is treating a
child with meningitis as malaria and he wanted me to check. As usual manuel was
correct. So the lesson I learnt is to respect even your interpreter’s