Excuse Me, Sir, I Speak Baby

While I look forward to Christmas every year, I found myself especially looking forward to this year’s holiday, as we would be spending it with our 15-day-old jeffandrorygrandson. When the day finally came, it was as joyous as I had imagined. Yet try as I may, I couldn’t keep work completely out of my mind: I realized that with the baby, I was in the shoes of a LEP (limited English proficient) person.

Every time the baby cried, the question I always had to ask was, “Why?” I try to feed him, change him, reposition him, amuse him, dress him warmer, dress him cooler, rock (paper/scissors) him, give him his pacifier, and finally ask him what is wrong.

As he continues to cry, louder and louder, the dogs come around to offer assistance. They try to lick him and nudge him with their noses. It does not appear to help. I start asking them what is wrong. My “interpreters” start barking and whining, but I don’t speak “K9-ese” so my frustrations increase.

I start looking to see if there is a pin poking him from his clothes, or maybe we pinched some skin in his diaper. Finding nothing, I realize that he must have some internal trauma.

The dogs are in a frenzy at this point, confirming my worst fears (this K9-ese I do understand). I quickly start getting ready to take him to the hospital. Time is of the essence. I am racing time for my grandson’s life! I put him on the changing table to bundle him up, and race to get my coat on.

Ready to take him to the hospital, I pick him up to move him to the car seat. The dogs are yelping and running around my feet. I trip on the dogs and barely keep my balance, jarring my grandson in my arms. In that instant, he relieves himself with a monstrous belch, and immediately stops crying. I hold him, looking at his face for a moment. He squirms and even smiles slightly.

The danger has subsided. The dogs are pleased and want to get closer to congratulate him on this other worldly act. I am a little embarrassed to have escalated the situation so quickly.

As I poke fun at myself, I stop to imagine if this were a true crisis, and the health care providers did not speak my language. It is then that I truly understand the importance of professional interpreters. Communication really is essential to health care.

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