My First Medical Emergency in French

French language acquisition has been going well, and it is passing very quickly!  In fact, we are coming up on our last month of language school! We have learned a lot about grammar and conjugations and vocabulary, but I have been looking for opportunities to speak more medical French. Well a while back, I was given that opportunity in a major way. We were eating out at a restaurant here in Albertville. I had ordered that you see below. It doesn't really come into the story much, but I just wanted to share a food pic. Yes, the bun is made of hash browns. Yum!

 "Bien Cuit" means "Well done"

"Bien Cuit" means "Well done"

While I was chowing down on this burger, you can bet I was pretty focused and wasn't really paying attention to anything going on around me.  Suddenly, Julie screamed at me, "LOGAN, GO!!!" as she points behind me.  I jumped up mid-bite and was running before I even knew what was happening. Several tables behind us, apparently an elderly gentleman passed out in his seat and the waitress was trying to arouse him. There was a large family with him and some were standing and generally looking concerned.  What would have been a very simple introduction in English was just so incredibly difficult to do in French, as I tried to explain that I am a physician and ask what happened. It doesn't help when your adrenaline starts pumping. "Je suis médecin," I panted. So far, so good... "Qu'est-ce que.......uhhh........?" I basically had no idea how to ask the right questions to find out what had happened. 

So after a mildly awkward pause, I turned my attention to the gentleman. I figured I could at least start by checking his ABC's.  I felt his pulse...Check.  I listened for his breathing...Check. The family was all talking to me at once by this point, and I basically understood very little. I got the sense that he had been eating and then just slumped over in the middle of his meal. I leaned in close to his ear and said loudly: "MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR! COMMENT ÇA VA?" He stirred as if he was waking up and gave me one of the meanest looks. I mean, how would you feel if you woke up and a stranger was screaming bad French at you? 

I didn't see any obvious neurological abnormalities. Thinking it would be a good idea to check his cranial nerves, though, I tried to remember the verbs for "smile" and "stick out your tongue." Turns out, our school really doesn't ever teach you how to say "stick out your tongue" unless you specifically ask.  I started pantomiming with the family to try to get them to translate what I wanted him to do. They probably wondered why I was smiling at them all and pointing at my smile and pointing at him. Ugh. If he was mad before, he certainly wasn't about to smile now. Even worse was trying to get him to "squeeze my hands." I just started squeezing everyone's hands and pointing at him. So they probably thought I was smiling and congratulating them or something. Can't even imagine what the rest of the restaurant was thinking as people were peering and gawking.

The waitress really did amazing during the whole situation -- staying calm, and helping me translate a few of these expressions. And it was she who decided to just call the ambulance and put me out of my misery -- I mean -- get him some definitive help. The emergency personnel arrived and assessed the situation. They easily asked him to smile, stick out his tongue, and even squeeze their hands -- and he easily comprehended what they were saying and did it! I looked back at the family with an expression like, "See?... I... That's.......oh, never mind." I quietly slunk back over to our table.

Have you ever felt really humiliated and useless? Then you know how I felt as I tried to finish that awesome hash-brown burger. I just didn't have much appetite left. But later as I reflected on this situation, I gained a few insights which helped me feel better. First of all, I was just thankful that there were people there that could really help this man, because if he had been completely reliant on me, he would have been in trouble.  I think God lets moments like these come into our lives for a reason. The better we are at something, the more we can be tempted to think that our success is really because of our skill level and our hard work. But those thoughts take glory away from God. No matter how good we are, God is still ultimately in control of the situation. And when our ability is taken away from us, it is all the more clear that without God's grace, we wouldn't be able to accomplish anything. I pray that with God's grace, I can continue to learn French so that in the future I will be able to help many more people like this man, for God's glory, not my own.  

Et il m’a dit: “Ma grâce te suffit, car ma puissance s’accomplit dans la faiblesse.”
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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
— 2 Corinthiens 12:9