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This is a question Doctors, Nurses, Dentists and Hospitals

Tingtwatter asks: Ever been on the receiving end of some quality health care? Tell us about it

(, Thu 11 Mar 2010, 11:49)
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language barrier
a couple of years ago, my mother suffered a brain haemorrhage. she was slim, fit, exceptionally healthy, only 54, had precisely zero warning signs, and basically just bloody unlucky. for the first couple of hours or so, she was awake but did not recognise or respond to anyone or anything - if i live to be 154 i will never ever be able to forget the sickeningly blank 1,000 yard stare clean through me that replaced everything that went before it - and then she lapsed into a coma. there were doctors and nurses running around everywhere doing tests, and we were waiting and waiting and waiting for the scan results.

eventually we were taken into a room by a doctor who barely spoke a word of english. he explained that there had been "a burst". we asked why; he did not know. we asked how; he did not know. we asked if she was in pain; he did not know. fair enough, there are probably no answers to these questions. but then we asked what next. he stumbled in his unintelligible english about the body and how it handled clots, and none of us really understood him. so my dad said, "are you saying that her body will start to break down the clotting and there will be some recovery?" the doctor nodded. yes, yes, that was what he was saying. we were all relieved, although of course terrified about how much recovery there would (or wouldn't) be.

but about three days later, there was no sign of any change. she was still in a coma, and still responding to precisely nothing. so we collared a different doctor, a scottish one this time, and asked him when the blood clot would start to break down. the doctor stared at us. then he said that we had all better sit down. and he said, "you have to understand this was a fatal haemorrhage. she will die in this hospital, probably in the next few days". now, these words shatter your life anyway. but after THREE DAYS of waiting for an improvement that was never going to happen? it was one of the few things that could have made this period worse.

a day or so later, we noticed they had removed the breathing tube. we asked the nurse. again, she barely spoke any english. she said "oh, she did not like the tube, so she bit it." immediately we all gasped, thinking that the scottish doctor was wrong, and there was some spark of life. we asked him. he apologised for his colleague and said, "her english is a bit poor, she means a gag reflex". oh. well, that's quite a different thing to a conscious action, surely.

she died about three days later.

now, nobody could complain about the standard of care, and i am very grateful for that, which at the end of the day is by far the most important thing. the hospital was clean, tidy, and the nurses were very gentle and respectful in how they dealt with my mum. nothing could have been done differently for her anywhere else. but the language barrier made dealing with shellshocked, devastated, bereaved relatives even harder for it to bear. surely it can't be too much to ask that the hospitals make sure that the staff who are dealing with relatives can just speak english??
(, Wed 17 Mar 2010, 16:55, 3 replies)
I don't know about doctors...
... but, in order to get a visa to work over here, nurses from abroad have to take some form of English exam.
It's situations like this that give morons like the BNP ammunition -- it's not fair on doctor or patient when there is a language barrier.
Langue skills, or lack of them, is what has stopped me emigrating.
(, Wed 17 Mar 2010, 17:40, closed)
I don't think it's as clear cut as that
Take a look at the following link from the Grauniad:

(, Wed 17 Mar 2010, 22:04, closed)
That really blows.
(, Thu 18 Mar 2010, 13:08, closed)

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