Monday, February 05, 2007

Thank You Ms. Finch

I took a quarter and a half of Spanish in college, but I solely base my Spanish skills on what I learned from Ms. Finch in 9th grade. Ms. Finch was a rather odd older woman that wore the same outfit two-days in a row no matter what. The immaturity of the students often threw her into a rampage of words we couldn’t interpret.

Over the years I’ve done my time in the service industry working along side several Hispanic men and women. Though they all spoke moderate to perfect English, they made sure I learned Spanish. “Mucho Gusto tu Chi-Chi’s”

I’ve never considered my Spanish skills worthy of a conversation nor would it get me anywhere in Mexico. “Donde el bano?” is really all you need isn’t it? Or “Mas Cervesas!”

This past weekend I was on-call for the ambulance both Friday & Saturday night. I was dreading getting a single call because it was extremely cold outside….-20-ish. On Friday night my pager went off just before 7pm, “MVA with injuries, possibly multiple injuries.” The first words out of my mouth, “Ahw Shit!” I knew it….Siberian weather and I have to play outside!

Luckily adrenaline keeps you pretty warm! I had on plenty layers, but it’s not like I can put layers on my hands. I think someone would frown on me having gloves over my rubber gloves!

When we get on scene the first thing the city cop said, “Anyone speak Spanish?” The look of terror swept cross my two partners’ faces. There were two state troopers, two city cops, and the three of us………I was the only person that had an ounce of hope to communicate with the injured.

When I approached the first two men I explained, “Me hablo muy pequino Espanol.” Which actually translates to, “I speak very small Spanish.” Hours later it occurred to me that I should have said, “Me hablo muy pequito Espanol.”

They were all showing signs of being hurt, but it was our job to see which ones needed to be transported, and who should be attended to first. Hmmm… In Dr’s offices and in hospitals they have charts showing a happy face at ONE and a very Sad face at TEN. I didn’t have that picture so I had to figure out a way to say it. Keeping mind that I’m fluent in American Sign Language, I used both skills to get through it, “Como Esta? Uno es muy bueno, cinco es muy mal! (for some reason cinco came out of my mouth rather than diez, but I ran with it)

One guy answered “Muy Mal…Cinco Cinco!” while the other answered “Asi Asi….dos.” I looked back at my partners and said, “this guy is fine, this guy needs a backboard.” The looks on their faces were like “Oh My God Thank You for telling me what to do!”
The third man was the driver and I basically understood that he was okay, but his chest hurt from the airbag. We transported all three (the guy that was fine didn’t exactly have a ride to the hospital) the 4 blocks to the hospital.

Normally once we get to the hospital we’re maybe there 20 minutes…this was not the case Friday night. We had called ahead to tell them that they needed a translator so by the time we got there they had bad news….they couldn’t get a hold of their translator. Grrrreat.

My extremely limited Spanish skills were now needed for the nurses and doctor on staff…can you tell it’s a small town hospital? An hour and a half later a friend of theirs showed up that spoke fluent English, and Spanish…About Time!

An hour and a half after we got to the hospital we were able to leave. The driver and front passenger were in X-ray, and the other guy was waiting for their friend.

On the way back to the station my two partners were laughing and thanking me a million times over. They couldn’t get over that they would have been completely clueless as to what to do!!

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