Latino patient amazed by number of hospital staff who think they speak Spanish



Manuel Castilla, a Colombia native but US citizen for 22 years, is amazed by the sheer amount of hospital staff in Des Moines, Iowa who believe they speak Spanish.  He was recently in a motor vehicle collision resulting in a femur fracture.  Orthopedists fixed Manny’s fracture.  Nurses cared for Manny.  Physical therapists worked with him.  During his hospital stay, he noticed one concerning trend.

“No one speaks Spanish for shit!” exclaimed Manny, in perfect, non-regional English.  “Their ability to speak slow, loud English, however, is impeccable.”

Studies would suggest that only 1 in 4 people who claim to speak Spanish and use it in their clinical practice, speak it with any fluency.  The same studies  would also suggest that in crisis situations, Manny’s car wreck for example, this number drops to as low as 1 in 10.  Specifically looking at Manny’s presentation to the emergency department, as soon as EMS brought him to trauma bay with a backboard and C collar, 6 different people began shouting “Dolor aquí!?” prior to ever asking if he spoke English.  

Manny continued, “Everyone was running around looking for the charger to some interpreter phone.  Before it was over, even the janitor was trying out her Spanish on me.  The ironic part is that hers was way better than that doctor’s.  His was mierda pura.  And why did they keep yelling Español when I kept clearly stating I spoke English?  I’m a freaking English teacher!

In order to get a better picture of what exactly happened, we interviewed the emergency physician who cared for Manny, Dr. Jeremy Aldrich.  “This Mexican guy came in beat up and bloody as hell.  I couldn’t understand a thing he said.  It sounded a lot like English, but I’m sure it was just another Mexican dialect.  Thank god we all speak Spanish.  I learned the basics on a cruise to Cabo last year.” 

We also were able to interview a nurse taking care of Castilla.  He reported Dr. Aldrich did manage the fracture but also provided Castilla with a near lethal dose of penicillin (an antibiotic Castilla begged the good doctor not to administer given his history of severe anaphylaxis to the medication).  “Yeah.  I think the patient tried to say something about an allergy.  I didn’t quite catch that one until the whole hives and airway swelling thing.” commented Aldrich.