Her vacation had been a disaster so far. Since arriving, she had suffered a terrible cold and cough. Worse, when she went tried to buy amoxicillin to knock it out, the pharmacist told her she needed a prescription. This was obviously a scam to line the pockets of American doctors, the guest added. She didn’t need my services except to provide the amoxicillin, so I should not take up her time.
This monologue occurred in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, but as the doctor for Latin American travel insurers, I get the drift of most conversations.
This lady appeared upset as soon as she answered the door. Accustomed to this behavior, her husband and child sat in a corner, trying to look inconspicuous. I had no plans to refuse the amoxicillin, but first I had to deliver good medical care. I phoned the insurance office, and the dispatcher agreed to interpret.
I asked the usual questions; she answered at great length.
The dispatcher translated but summarized her frequent interruptions with: “she’s mad about something.”
The guest rolled her eyes when I put a thermometer into her mouth and seemed impatient during my exam.
“She’s really mad,” said the dispatcher as he translated my findings. When I concluded that she would recover in a few days with or without an antibiotic but that I would give her amoxicillin, she slammed down the phone and waved off the prescription I offered.
“If you don’t think I need an antibiotic then I don’t want an antibiotic. According to you I should continue to suffer. Thank you very much!….” I’m not certain those were her exact words, but they were close.
I laid the prescription on the bed and expressed sympathy. The door closed behind me with a deafening slam.