I look at myself as being culturally sensitive as a result of being exposed to many different cultures, especially while living in this wonderfully diverse community.
Here are three little cases that highlight interesting things I come across as a result of working in a place where people from all around the world come for care.
Deer Blood with Faith
A thirty-year-old Spanish-speaking man came in after having had a seizure. He had a life-long history of seizures. He admitted he quit taking his seizure medicines and instead was taking “sangre de venado” (deer blood.) He insisted it had to be taken “with faith” in order for it to work. Unfortunately, his seizure was evidence it had not worked for him. I prescribed seizure medication and encouraged him to take it.
This piqued my curiosity so I did a web search, which was very interesting. Here is a quote I especially liked from an advertisement selling Sangre de Venado:
“This magnificent formula has been created specially for the person who wants to attract that someone special their way and to get rid of any person who wishes harm to you.”
Cuts His Back for Islam
A twenty-six-year-old man came in bleeding from self-inflicted lacerations on his back. He denied any suicidal intent but said he cut himself as a part of a Muslim ritual. He said he had been doing this to himself since he was twelve. This time, he cut himself a bit too aggressively and had not been able to stop the bleeding.
Examination of his back showed that most of the skin was red and swollen with many small lacerations. In the middle of all that were two large, gaping, bleeding cuts. There were also many scars from previous similar injuries.
He allowed us to suture his wounds and we sent him home.
Here is a Wikipedia link that is interesting. It is very easy to find amazing pictures and videos of men and boys and cutting themselves in observance of this tradition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Ashura
Is that a Russian Name?
My patient’s name, appearance, and accent caused me to assume she was a Slav. I introduced myself and made sure I had her name correct. Then, in an effort to be personable, I asked if her name was Russian. Whoo! What a mistake! She emphatically told me I should first ask and not just assume someone was Russian. She was Bosnian. The Serbs, cousins to and buddies with the Russians, are enemies of the Bosnians. My patient was really miffed I would assume she was Russian. Ouch! How could I have anticipated that? It was a good reminder that being culturally ignorant puts you at risk of offending others, despite your best intentions.
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