28 November 2011

His Brain Is Speaking English

This morning I was asked to see a patient who came in for an operation and had a stroke while he was recovering.  The doctor told me that he had left hemiplegia, so I knew it was right side (of the brain) involvement.  But since we live in a world of Where-There-Is-No-MRI, I had no idea what to expect.

It's been a while since I've had a patient with an acute stroke . . . but it's like riding a bike.  One with a cool basket in the front and streamers in the handle bars!

I met with my patient in the morning and again in the afternoon.  The second time around both his sons were bedside.

They watched as I helped their father sit at the side of the bed and tried to evaluate his functional capacity as well as his physical and cognitive limitations . . . which is quite difficult when my questions translate as:
Where is hand of you?  There is hand of you!
You give car me . . . no . . . you give cup me!  Good!  There is car . . . no, cup!
I'm sure his sons were evaluating my cognitive functional capacity throughout the whole session!!

Let just say there was plenty of 'babu Hausa' to go around.  Unfortunately neither of my patient's sons spoke English or French.  Although, I did give both languages a try.  They just stared blankly at me.

I tried again.

Still nothing.

Words were coming out of my mouth . . . I was telling them what they needed to know and do . . . but they weren't understanding because I was not speaking their language.

Eventually the whole sight was painful enough for my patient's neighbor, and he offered up the service of his elementary English.

The sons and I went back and forth a bit through our new . . . translator.  They expressed that they understood some of the things I was encouraging them to do, and I asked if they had any questions.

They did: What happened to our father?

One thing I've learned as an OT is the necessity to take complex concepts and simplify them for the non-medically-trained to understand.  I make big words small . . . just don't ask me to make them big again . . . or spell them.  But despite my efforts at simplifying the explanation of a Cerebral Vascular Accident, or 'Stroke', the terms were still too technical for our translator.

I tried again.

It wasn't working.

My gut reaction was to express frustration at our lack of a common language . . . and that's when it hit me . . . their father's body was experiencing our same frustration!

'Right now, your father's brian is speaking in English.  But his body speaks Hausa.  So, we have to teach his brain Hausa again so that his body can understand what his brain is telling it to do.'

That, they understood.

Sure it doesn't answer the physiological question of 'What happened to our father?' but they understood that there has been a change in the part of the body calling the shots . . . and that the brain and the rest of him could learn to communicate again.

All thanks to our earlier attempts of failed communication.

I guess 'babu Hausa' really does come in handy!


Holly McGregor said...

Oh my goodness!  I am an Occupational Therapy Asst in Meridian, MS!  I've been looking for someone using their degree in OT to serve in missions!  I would love to do a short term missions trip(7 to 10 days) to your area to see what it's all about!  However, I am just an asst with only a 2 year degree. :(  I would love to collect things in here in the US like wheel chairs, walkers, canes, bedside commodes, adaptive equipment, prefabricated splints, etc.  Would love to hear from you:  hrainey82@gmail.com

Deb. said...

Wow Holly! THANKS!!! I'll send you an email, but first, there's no such thing as JUST an assistant!! And a two year degree is WAY MORE than the guy I'll start training in January will have when we're all done. To come help us in a place like Galmi, the only thing you need is a teachable heart that is willing to serve! In fact, around here, we LOVE 'just' assistants!!

I AM SO EXCITED TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! I'm traveling as of today (until Sunday) which means my internet access will be unpredictable . . . will write when I can!

Thanks for your interest in the work we're doing here!

Bethany Reamer said...

you are so smart =)

Chcpe said...

That explanation was perfect, and I think it has helped me out too. My brain continues to speak Engish, but my body is beginning to speak Swahili. I thought my joints were going bad...silly me! Hope the travels are going well. Any prayer requests? C

Holly McGregor said...

Sooo glad to hear back from you!!  Looking forward to hearing more!

Deb. said...

Yes, 'arthritis' is a Swahili term! :)