Playing Translator For The American Doctor In Jamaica

The esteemed American Doctor, Ted Hofflin was determined to go to Jamaica to research their Medical practices.
His first day at St. Joseph’s Hospital was not as straight forward as he thought it would be.
While he sat in the Doctor’s lounge trying to absorb the culture that surrounded, he felt confident that he would be able to pursue his research without a hitch.
Until his first patient arrived, Trevor Walwin from Spanish Town.
Dr. Hofflin: “What seems to be the problem?”
Trevor: “Well sa, mi footback a urt mi, mi did mash me cawn a few days ago, maybe dats’ why it urtin. Den de pain reach all de wey inna mi elbo..Maybe iz arttritis…me kno knoe.”
Dr. Hofflin: Huh? ……Could you repeat that?
Trevor: “Mi vaice horse-up….me cya’nt talk so good.”
Dr. Hofflin: “Just a moment……I’ll get a translator.”
I was reading a magazine in the hallway, when the Doctor peeked out the door.
“Excuse me, do you speak Jamaican?”
I replied, “Sort of…..I’m rusty, but let’s give it a try.”
I followed him into the examining room.
Dr Hofflin asked Trevor to repeat himself.
Trevor: “Me sey mi haf wan pain inna mi footbak, an mi feel it dung a mi lbo, a tink cause mi mash mi cawn!”
Me: “Well, your patient says that his foot hurts because he hurt his corn on his foot, and the pain is radiating all the way to his elbow.”
Dr. Hofflin: “Oh that’s great, we can solve that right away.”
He then takes out a notebook to scribble the new Jamaican words he’s learned.
The next patient came in from Priori High School, a cheerleader, who burned her leg on the warm benches in the stadium.
As she enters the office in her cheerleading outfit the Doctor is flabergasted.
Cheerleader: “Hi Doctor, mi name is Cherrilyn…I knoe yu surprise cause me wearing mi batty rider sharts, but is cause we havin cheer practice. De unifarm is kina revealin, it show we titty dem and de sharts ride all de way hup on we batty. Dats how cum me get sunbun like dis. De bench dem was bwalin hot an mi leg bruise from it.”
The Doctor was trying to figure out what her problem was, but after several attempts he acquiesced and asked me to translate once again.
I took one look at Cherrilyn and understood her problem.
Me: Doctor they were practicing cheers in the scorching sun, she got sunburnt on her chest area and because her shorts are short and don’t cover her bottom, she got burnt on her leg….rather her thigh area.
Dr. Hofflin: “Oh, why didn’t you say that…Nothing a little aloe vera couldn’t cure.”
Cherrylynn rah-rahed her way from his office once he gave her the proper medication.
After patient number two Dr. Hofflin decided it would be a good idea for me to stick around just in case he had any more language barriers.
The next patient was a days worker named Esme who became ill cleaning the house of her employer.
“Esme: “Dactar me jus no feel right at all, mi throathole a urt me, mi tummuch a gripe me, mi ayzhole a nam hout an mi neckback stiff hup.”
Dr. Hofflin: “I beg your pardon…Just a minute.”
He waved his hand to summon me, as I was a bit enthralled by his next patient that was waiting in the hallway. It was a little girl who was obviously playing dress-up.
I asked his patient to repeat her symptoms and I was able to translate. I must admit, even I had a hard time understaning some of the lingo.
Me: Dr. Hofflin, the patient says her throat hurts, she has a tummy ache and her ears itch. She also says her neck feels stiff.
Dr. Hofflin: “Hmm…..sounds like a virus. A broad spectrum antibiotic will clear these symptoms right up.”
Esme was on her merry way to feeling better. Dr. Hofflin continued making notes of the Jamaican terminologies he had just learned.
Dr. Hofflin: “Thanks, Ms. Bailey, you’re a lifesaver. You seem to know Jamaican patois really well.”
Me: “I’m Jamaican, but at times, I must admit some terms are foreign to me. I guess it’s because I have been living abroad for so long.”
His pee-wee patient sauntered in wearing a dress five times her size, a lovely hat to match and shoes several sizes too big. Apparently she was playing tea with her dead mother’s clothing.
The Nanny continued: Doctor she have a wax and kernel unda her armhole big like a jack-fruit. I tell her not to play wid dose old clothes in de attic, but she wouldn’t lissen. Den she waz houtside playin inna de dutty water and she haff wan hole heap of ring worm. Dat pikney nable string tye hup inna de street.
Me: “Dr. Hofflin, the Nanny says that the little girl got a sore under her arm from wearing her dead mother’s clothing. In Jamaica if you wear old or mildew clothing that haven’t been washed, people say that you get sores from it.
The Nanny also says that she was playing in the yard in some dirty water and she got some rash from it. The Nanny says that the little girl likes to run up and down outside.
Dr. Hofflin smiled and said ” No problem, I’ll make you feel better in no time.”
The day was gradualy coming to a close when Dr. Hofflin’s last patient arrived in a frenzied hurry.
“Docta, Docta, me have a confidential problem. True me haff wan Hadam’s Happle a bore tru mi neck dem tink me iz a bwoy. But me iz no bwoy, ’cause me haff a poom-poom. Help me Docta, me need wan medication fi disolve de Hadam’s Happle.
Me: Dr. Hofflin this is a very delicate subject. Your patient says that people think she is a boy because she has a Adam’s Apple…you know a big knot on her throat area. She also mentions that she is definitely not a boy because she has a female organ. She wants you to give her medicine to let the knot on her throat disappear.”
Dr Hofflin commented, “Me can’t elp dis ya wan, she need wan koo-koo Docta.”

About the author

Margaret J.Bailey