Going to a country where I am unable to speak the native language was a bit concerning for me as someone with a rare medical condition. I knew I needed to make sure I would be able to somehow communicate information about my medical condition to health professionals if the situation were to arise. Learning Spanish or even memorizing the phrases I needed was out of the question with how bad my memory is when I become symptomatic. With the help of a fellow POTSie from a POTS support group, I was able to create two medical alert cards in order to allow me to explain my condition without needing to remember anything more than to keep my cards with me at all times. One card is detailed in case I found myself in a hospital/medical center. The other card was extremely brief simply stating, “Sometimes I faint because of a medical condition, but sitting or laying down help.”
My printer was out of ink, so I called my Mom to see if she could print out the cards on thick paper for me. Of course, she said yes and she even printed on yellow paper to make the cards extra attention grabbing. She asked, “I’m just curious; when would you need the one sentence card?” I told her, “If I am laying down somewhere publicly (even if it is a couch), using a wheelchair, or appear off balance, I get asked if I am okay or need help quite often. I always just say I am fine, but I faint if I’m up too long. Since I am going to be in a wheelchair, I think I will be asked what is wrong and if I am okay quite a bit!”
I didn’t have to explain quite as often as I do here. This is probably in part because at a resort, someone relaxing on a couch isn’t too unusual and partly because I was never out on my own. For the people who did ask more than “Do you need help?” having my little cards was handy. There was an evening a server saw me standing after seeing me in the wheelchair over the course several hours and asked, “Miracle!?” It cracked me up. I tried explaining by miming POTS and inserting words… Imagine me saying and gesturing, “Sitting *thumbs up, smile*, laying *thumbs up, smile*, if I stand a lot *do the dramatic hand to forehead/sigh fainting pose, sad face*, stand a little *do hand gesture for a tiny bit* *thumbs up*” Needless to say, my cards were much easier for everyone involved. I gave Miracle Man a card after my failed miming attempt. The Spanish translation I used must make some sense because he understood and even asked to keep the card.
The resort didn’t have free internet. On day 3, I texted one of my best friends who also has POTS and asked her to look up a few words in Spanish for me. I felt so ignorant not being able to communicate on a basic level with the resort staff. I love how my Mom handled staff member apologies for mix ups due to the language barrier. She would say, “You know two languages. I know one. You are doing much better than me!” Also, never again will I repeat the same word over and over (in hopes it will suddenly click) to someone who doesn’t understand English. No matter how many time someone said a word in Spanish to me, I simply didn’t know what it meant if I hadn’t heard it before. Okay, back to my friend translating words. Not only did my friend include pronunciations for the words she translated, she basically offered me a personal translator in case of emergency! She owns a business and one of her employees speaks fluent English and Spanish. He said he’d be happy to help me communicate if needed. How nice is that? I felt so secure knowing if anything went wrong and my emergency card didn’t explain enough, I’d have someone who could help me explain.
If you would like to print off your own English/Spanish emergency cards like the ones I used, you are in luck. Below this image of my cards, I’ve linked a PDF version of them. If you speak Spanish and some part of my card makes absolutely no sense, let me know!