Fillers A memorable interview

Saved by the chaplain

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 14 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1384
  1. k v Nair, consultant physician
  1. Alwaye, Kerala State, India

    The year was 1967. I was working as a registrar in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, preparing to appear for part two of the membership examination of the Royal Australian College of Physicians. In those days, I was one of very few Indian doctors on the staff of the hospital.

    One day I had an urgent call from one of the surgical wards. A sailor had been admitted with acute abdominal pain a few hours earlier. There was difficulty in taking a history, as he was an Indian who spoke only Hindi. I was the natural choice to help out. The only problem was that, as one hailing from the southern part of India, I did not speak a word of Hindi. With the patient groaning away, tension was building up. Then wisdom dawned on a bright resident who remembered that the hospital chaplain, an Englishman, who had spent several years in north India might be the right person. He was called in and his knowledge of the language was superb. The crisis was defused and I started recording the history. The sheer irony of this scene must have pleased the gods, seeing two Indians conversing with each other with the help of a white interpreter.


    We welcome articles of up to 600 words on topics such as A memorable patient, A paper that changed my practice, My most unfortunate mistake, or any other piece conveying instruction, pathos, or humour. If possible the article should be supplied on a disk. Permission is needed from the patient or a relative if an identifiable patient is referred to. We also welcome contributions for “Endpieces,” consisting of quotations of up to 80 words (but most are considerably shorter) from any source, ancient or modern, which have appealed to the reader.

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