For the past three days I've had a patient I've been trying to communicate with in my barely-existent Spanish. Tiene dolor? Dolor en la cabeza? I think I'm doing the patient a service-- my Spanish is poor enough it makes her laugh. Laughing is good. But it has made it hard to understand what is going on with the patient, and hard to be sure what is wrong with her and what we need to do. I tried to bring a translator in, and she said no, we were fine, I should keep talking.
Yesterday I go into her room to check on her, and she's talking to a nurse. In English. In perfect damn English. Three days she's making me speak my terrible Spanish, making me think this is the only way we can possibly communicate with each other. And all along, she speaks English. She speaks English. I asked her-- was this some sort of joke? Yep, she said. Thought it would be fun.
Would have been less fun if somehow we'd misunderstood each other and we'd started treating her for something she didn't have, or didn't treat her for something she did have. Gosh, she was risking her health and I was too naive to do anything about it.
It's hard enough to do some of this stuff when the patient isn't trying to deliberately trick the doctor. "Patient actually does speak English after all" is the most embarrassing patient note I've been forced to write so far.