Intended for healthcare professionals

Fillers A memorable patient

A communication headache

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 20 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:802
  1. Nick Fox, specialist registrar in neurology
  1. London

    The argument taking place among the three people waiting to see me next in the headache clinic was not noisy because it was conducted in sign language. My next patient was deaf-mute and had been arguing with her husband, also deaf-mute, and with the hospital interpreter. My patient was refusing to use the interpreter except via her husband. Communication was virtually impossible. Each question took several minutes to go, via interpreter, to husband and to patient, back and forth between husband and wife, and then finally back via interpreter to me. The answers seemed to bear no relation to the questions I thought I had asked. “Her headache has been present for over 40 years, since the age of 10, is getting worse, is present all the time, and the treatments do not work, and no …

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