Two Children

One litre of Red Bull and two litres of Coke Cola and I still don't feel up to facing the day.

I think I have caffeine tolerance.

Once more my job gave me two calls that are in contrast to one another, both involving children.

The first was an eight year old boy who'd fallen over and taken a small chunk out of himself. Nothing too serious and something that would be fixed by three sutures. The only thing (and yes, I may be a bit harsh here), was that he was constantly crying. His mother was also weeping as if he was about to die.

I asked him if it was the pain that was making him cry, but he told me that it just 'stung' a bit. He was crying because he was scared. I explained that it wasn't serious, that he'd be home in an hour and that it wasn't a problem.

But still he cried.

His mother also wouldn't stop crying, even though I explained the same thing to her.

No matter what I did or said, it made no difference, the crying continued. As did the wailing, the sobbing and the shrieking.

So I put a plaster on the wound and took him to hospital. By the time we got there I had a splitting headache. I'm reminded of what my mother would have said. She would have taken one look at the wound and told me to, “stop crying or I'll give you something worth crying about – it's hardly a scratch and your own fault for climbing trees”.

Didn't do me any harm.

And across the globe eight year old boys are given machetes and AK47s and are fighting in armies.

Later that same day I went to an adult who had been beaten up. He didn't speak English, his son and his daughter in law didn't speak English.

His eleven year old granddaughter did.

She was bright, she was sensible and she was pretty much the only contact with the non-Punjabi speaking part of England that the family had.

She had been born in England, which makes me suspect that her parents had been here for eleven years without learning any English. Which is a poor effort by any standard.

So they relied on her to deal with any place that didn't have translators. I spoke to her about it – she had helped them navigate the maze of benefit offices and social services. She had been there while her mother had another two children, translating what the midwives said, she was the translator between her family and her school.

She was now translating for me while I tried to determine why three men had broken into their house and beaten up her grandfather.

She had been forced to grow up incredibly quickly while her family came to rely on her. I wondered if she has got used to the quizzical looks all the adults in the house was giving me when I tried talking to them.

Very, very sad that this eleven year old girl had to deal with all these adult problems.

24 thoughts on “Two Children”

  1. I hope that Coke was diet ! You'll be hyperglycemic and having arrythmias before you know it with all that sugar and caffeine….

  2. It's when I stop I get the arrythmias. And end up in a Resus bed being monitored for the night.(I could have sworn I blogged about it – maybe not as I can't seem to find it in my archives)

  3. There might be another side to it for the 11 year old translator. I know it's not the same because it wasn't continual for me and nobody's life depended on it, but the times when I got to be the smart, competent one in the household were real high points for me as a kid. There was the time I fixed the toilet when I was about nine. And the time we needed some kind of papers at the police station. My Granny spoke English okay, but she was suddenly in a real funk. I'd heard stories about her interesting life, being a refugee several times over and evading German police during WWII, but that was the first time I really felt what having that in your background could do to you. So I did the talking to the fat and friendly US cops. I was probably about ten.

  4. It is a very big problem–and has been a problem ever since the 1950s–in Israel, with the vast influx of Jews from Middle Eastern countries where the father was an absolute patriarch and suddenly the children are “the bosses” in the household. It upsets the entire social balance. And if it is a girl who acts as translator and go-between! Oy! The shame of it.BTW, the mothers are too busy with the house and raising the children (and in Moslem cultures, often actively discouraged from going outside the home) to learn the language. But the father might have been unwilling to answer questions, and so he used the girl who could claim to be ignorant of the reasons why he was beaten.

  5. In that mothers defence, until you are a parent yourself you do not know how you will react when your child hurts themselves! She was probably in shock herself, which in turn made the child even worse. He will probably be a wimp for the rest of his life thanks to his mum.I however am quite tough when my daughter hurts herself, to the point when she told me last week that she doesn't think i am a very good nurse (ouch!) due to me sending her to school with a cough!? She has been sent home from school before vomiting when i had thought she was faking it, I'm not very good at judging when my own child is unwell, so no wonder she thinks i'm unsympathic…

  6. I always find the “Don't speak Engish” thing interesting.In LAS the call-takes use “Language Line” as a translation service when taking a call from someone for whom English is not their language. All of the questioning is done via an impartial translator, to get the address of the patient and their problem. Yet – strangely – I find that when I (as one of the sector staff, as opposed to call-takers) ring back to advise of a delay, or to get more information, I speak to someone – frequently the patient or the original caller – who speaks perfectly understandable English. Which begs the obvious question, why the F*** did the call-taker have to waste time with a translator when the person I spoke to can understand English perfectly well (and probably speak it better than me) Is it laziness??? I'm beginning to think so….

  7. I have no sympathy with the mum, its mum (and dads) job to do calm in child crisis (even if they don't feel it.) They can do panic tears etc later. No wonder the child wouldn't stop crying.

  8. Don't worry, Joanna, my mum sent my brother to school with a broken arm! Then a few years later she told me to have a cold shower (4 times!) when I reacted to a wasp sting, and NHS Direct told her I actually needed an ambulance…some mothers are so untrusting of their kids! πŸ˜‰

  9. I sent my son to school with a cracked tibia! He thwacked it with his skateboard, and I told him he was fine! (And I was a nurse!) Several days later, when he was still limping, he got x-rays. Boy, did I feel callous!

  10. Erm, did i forget to mention my daughter was walking around for a week with a broken arm, no wonder shes so brave! I am such a bad nurse and Mum!!

  11. I can speak to this from the point of view of a non-local interacting in her native language – in this case, the location is Belgium, and when I had to speak to the police in an emergency, I went into total language-block from my panic, and had to complete the task in English.I felt very badly about that, though (I'm a bit proud of my Dutch-language accomplishment) so when I had to follow up the phone call, I succeeded in staying calm enough to actually do the second, and rather less panicked, call in Dutch.


  12. Blimey, just as you think people can't get any more stupid, along comes some bugger and proves you wrong!

  13. I think nurses are the worst for it – I was raised by my Grandma who had been a nurse, and always got the “don't be such a baby” treatment. I've heard it from other people whose parents were in nursing too!Still, like Reynolds says, it never did me any harm. πŸ™‚

  14. I didnt realise it was possible to put 2 litres of coke and a litre of red bull away, how can you not be climbing the walls after that! lol

  15. I agree with the poster above, nurses are the worst. My dad is a nurse and I got told to stop moaning it was just a bruise when I fell over and broke my elbow, when I broke 4 fingers I was told to go and carry on playing in the sea coz it'd stop hurting soon (he did acknowledge ther was a problem when they changed colour). Even when I scraped my finger down to the bone, took one look went dizzy and fell over, knocking myself out on the kitchen floor he didn't turn a hair, just scraped me off the concrete and calmly toook me off to A&E in the car. It has left me with a healthy disregard for bothe personal injury and the injuries of others and a genuine irritation with howling, wailing mothers who shriek over nothing and wind their children up further.

  16. My brother's best friend's parents were both GPs. They had five children, and every single one of them broke a bone before they were 11. Each time, both parents missed it! πŸ™‚

  17. So true about having a nurse for a mother… I never got any sympathy when I was ill as a child and when I managed to break my wrist at the age of twelve, my mother insisted that I got changed and washed so that I wouldn't show her up in front of all her friends in A&E (and she thought I had only sprained it).Mind you there is a definite upside, 6 months ago I managed to badly break my leg whilst walking my kids to school. My early training in 'stiff upper lip' kept my kids calm and (I hope) stopped them worrying too much until the paramedics arrived with some wonderful gas & air for the pain.

    And just for the record, I do maintain a 'brush 'em down and send them on their way' attitude for the normal scrapes and scratches of childhood.

  18. Omg i can't beleive you don't get hyper on red bull! I get really hyper on a sip of the stuff let alone a few cans!!

  19. Couldnt agree more. kids are far too mollycoddled nowadays. If you havent had a few cuts, bruises, broken bones and/or stitches you havent had a real childhood.Good on your mum thats the right attitude!

  20. I know a girl like this and it drives me insane. Since the age of 5 or 6 she has been doing EVERYTHING for her parents from organising their house insurance etc. to translating on Parents evening. They've been in the country for over 18 years… and still speak very little english.The unfairness of it all. What will they do when she and her younger sister move out? Call them where ever they may be in the world to ask them to call the insurance company on their behalf and organise their health insurance or whatever? Have they considered what they'll do in their old age?

    To me, that's selfishness of the highest order.

    However, the girl is a borne communicator as a result – she has had to be. She'll go far in whatever field she decides to go in to.

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