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Lost In No Translation, Part 7

, , , , , | Right | March 2, 2023

I work as a receptionist at an urgent care clinic. An old woman comes in with an African refugee family behind her. She throws a file folder at me with abysmal copies of ID cards and says nothing.

Me: “How can I help you this evening?”

Woman: *Gesturing over her shoulder* “They’re sick.”

Me: “Okay, let’s get started by getting them signed in.”

I pass her the sign-in chart while she scoops up the contents of the file folder she just tossed on my desk. It’s pretty common to get refugees accompanied by their caseworker, so I ask if that’s who she is.

Woman: “Yeah, and translator.”

She fills in their first names on the sign-in sheet only. She doesn’t put down the chief complaint or whether they are returning patients. I figure I can get that information as we go along as we surprisingly aren’t busy at the moment. Many patients are understandably concerned with privacy, so I don’t push her to complete the sign-in sheet.

Me: “Have they been to see us before?”

Woman: “I have no idea.”

Some translator — she didn’t even ask them.

Me: *Trying to be helpful* “I can look them up; what’s the last name?”

She drops the file again. I pick it up and search for their records. They have none, so I assemble the new patient paperwork.

Me: “Looks like this is their first time. Please fill out these forms, one for each of them, and return them to me when they’re done.”

She takes the file and paperwork without a word and sits down near my desk. She hands each family member a clipboard and shouts at them as if they are hard of hearing.


I feel bad for the family, but it isn’t until I hear them distinctly say, “Quoi? Q’est que c’est?” that I pipe up.

Me: “Je vous-aidez?” *Can I help you?*

The look on the father’s face was one of relief. The two parents practically ran up to me and started asking me questions in rapid French while the caseworker and their “translator” merely stared. I got their paperwork sorted, got them seen by the doctor, and made sure they knew to ask for me if they ever needed to come back.

Lost In No Translation, Part 6
Lost In No Translation, Part 5
Lost In No Translation, Part 4
Lost In No Translation, Part 3
Lost In No Translation, Part 2

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