Years ago I used to see some Russians resident in Bangalore. They usually came accompanied by an interpreter and the consultation was a laborious three-way affair at the end of which in addition to a mild headache, I felt not sure whether I got the problem well understood by both parties. On one occasion one of them was sick and could not make it to my chambers and I was called to do a house call. On reaching his home I was surprised to find the interpreter absent. I was now faced with the problem of communicating with this huge obviously sick and groaning Russian. Looking at my face he must have guessed my predicament and he said in perfect Queen’s English, ‘ Doc don’t worry, I can speak good English’ and proceeded to give an excellent description of his complaints. Taken pleasantly aback I asked him why on pervious occasions he put me to so much difficulty with the unsatisfactory three-way conversation. The reply was that he had to follow the prescribed protocol. Obviously the tartan interpreter was some kind of watchdog keeping an eye over these countrymen of hers!
A snippet I read some time ago in the BMJ prompted me to write this somewhat similar experience that I underwent some time ago in my practice. The couple came in one after the other, first the man and then the woman. The man told his story with no assistance from the woman except she was giving him unsympathetic stony looks. After finishing with him I wrote out a prescription and told him to avoid spicy food for a few days and asked his wife to put less spice in the food. She looked very offended and told me that she is no wife of this unmannered man who barged in to the room out of turn disregarding her and went on to add that I have to put the unmannered upstart in his place and see that he does not do so again. I sat back blinking at both of them. The man took a sheepish leave all the time getting a blistering stare from her.
Those of you who have no receptionist to control entry of patients beware of such situations; all women who accompany men need not be wives!