On Monday, Hugh returned from Hawaii. His ears and throat hurt. On Tuesday, Hugh went to the urgent care clinic and saw a doctor. He filled out some forms and waited to be called in to see the doctor. The doctor asked what his symptoms were, and he told her. She wanted to do a test for strep throat. He consented. And she went and found a swab. The doctor disappeared down to her lab for a few minutes. Upon her return, she said that the culture was positive for strep and proceeded to discuss antibiotic options.
At no point was Hugh offered an explanation of how much the test was going to cost, nor was he shown the results of the test so that he could see that it indeed was positive for strep. Having had strep many times when he was a child, he was pretty certain that he needed antibiotic quickly and did not argue with the results.
(Hugh writing now)
As I sat listening to the doctor offering me antibiotics, I was taken back to my time in México in 2010. I was traveling with my colleagues via Micro (a small van like bus). There were two women sitting in the row behind us. It was a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother – they could have been the age of my mother and grandmother. They were on their way back home from a visit to their doctor. The daughter was holding a brown paper bag containing medications. She was trying to read the Spanish instructions which came with the medications and her hand written notes of comments from the doctor. She had probably been to a few years of Spanish school, but the instructions were full of words with which she was less familiar. It was also obviously that she did not write very often. Her mother spoke even less Spanish than she did. It was an interesting conversation to overhear. As it took place partially in Spanish and partly in Me’phaa… as the daughter tried to read, and then think about how to explain the directions to her mother.
I remember wondering if the doctor was really concerned with this elderly woman’s health, or if he was just giving her pills because they had come to him for pills. It was clear to see that she did not understand some things about how the medicine worked or why she was taking them. Other expatriates in the area seemed to be convinced that the government provided healthcare did not always have the best interest of these people in mind when they treated them.
I still think about this situation and wonder if that woman really needed the pills she got, was it really her heart? Did she really need those antidepressants? Or was she really just like me and accepted whatever was given to her, because she is “supposed to trust” the person with the white lab coat?
- What is a Bible translator to do in these situations? Is it their job to do anything?
- What is Christian to do?
- What are minority language speakers to do with traditional forms of medical knowledge? For instance medical knowledge which does not rely on pharmaceutical companies but rather on herbal knowledge? As a community moves from one language to another (from Me’phaa to Spanish) the concepts about their environment also change, because those concepts are embedded with their language. In my case, perhaps the relevant knowledge is that cinnamon has been shown in some cases to fight some strains of strep bacteria, so a combination of cinnamon and yogurt (which provides good bacteria), is that a way to fight off strep without antibiotics and their side effects?