Foreign Languages Overheard

When I was practicing pediatrics in Florida, I had this experience more than once. Some new patients wouldn’t know that I spoke Spanish, so often couples or a mother and a grandmother would be speaking Spanish between themselves, sometimes making derogatory or critical comments about me. I would just listen and not reveal that I understood everything they were saying until finally I would ask, “¿No sabían qué yo era puertoriqueno? (“Didn’t you know that I’m Puerto Rican?”)

Their mouths would always drop. I wish I could have had a picture of that moment! Then they would ask me where in Puerto Rico I was from. I would always answer “Ponce” even though I was never in that part of PR. We would then have a good laugh and they would be wondering what they had previously said. Most of the time it was just innocent criticism like, “This new doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”

The Other Dr. Kraft

Very early in my career when I was just a young pediatrician in Palm Beach county, I was in an exam room seeing a patient when my nurse knocked on the door.

“There’s someone on the phone who said she needs to talk to you, but I had trouble understanding her because of her accent.”

“Can it wait?” I asked.

“No, she said it’s very important. “

“Hello, this is Dr. Kraft,” I said as I picked up the phone.

“Dr. Kraft, ” my caller said with a very heavily accented pronunciation.

“My name is xxxxxx xxxxxx from the XXX spa in Palm Beach,” she said, expecting me to recognize her name or her spa’s name.

“I’ve heard about you from so many of my clients on the Island.”

That’s Palm Beach lingo for some who wants you to know that they are from the town of Palm Beach, the island off the coast from the mainland West Palm Beach.

The Town of Palm Beach, known as “The Island,” just off the coastal city of West Palm Beach

I did have a few families who lived “on the Island,” as they loved to call their ritzy enclave, but I already was getting the feeling she was mistaken if she was talking about clients in a spa.

“Mahvelous”

“How can I help you?” I asked.

“I wanted to meet you personally,” she continued, “since I’ve heard you do such mahvelous things with breasts” (with the emphasis on the word “mahvelous“). It was then that it clicked.

There was another doctor with the name Craft who was a plastic surgeon. Our paths never did cross in my 35 years in practice, for obvious reasons, but I always chuckled when I heard when a patient had been referred to me by someone on “the Island.”

I still have my own personal reason for laughing when I think of Billy Crystal and his SNL “Mahvelous” skit.

Billy Crystal




Ajo y Otros Placeres

Una de las mejores cosas de retirarme de mi práctica pediátrica fue que finalmente pude relajar ciertas restricciones alimentarias que había seguido durante muchos años. Durante mis 40 años de carrera, había mantenido un horario establecido de trabajo los lunes, martes, jueves y viernes. Estar libre todos los miércoles fue un buen descanso durante la semana de la rutina de una práctica de oficina ocupada.

Ajo
Cebollas


A mi esposa, que preparaba la mayoría de las comidas familiares durante mis días laborales, le encanta cocinar con ajo, cebollas y otros ingredientes sabrosos. Disfruté de la variedad de platos, pero a veces mis pacientes se daban cuenta al día siguiente.


“Ewwwww … Dr. Kraft, su aliento apesta“, anunció un paciente memorable mientras yo examinaba sus oídos. Era un niño de cinco años desinhibido que no se contuvo. ¿Cómo puede objetar la franqueza de un niño, especialmente cuando sabe que tenía razón?

Mal aliento

A partir de ese momento, le pedí a mi esposa que omitiera el ajo excepto los martes, viernes y sábados para que yo tuviera un día libre para que mi aliento volviera a la normalidad.

Cuando me jubilé hace seis años, mis restricciones al ajo se quedaron en el camino. Comencé a cocinar junto a mi esposa y pude comer alimentos picantes con menos miedo de ofender a mis pequeños pacientes cuando ingresaba a su espacio personal. Sin embargo, dado que participé activamente en un proyecto de tutoría, reuniones de clubes de cámaras y grupos de conversación en español, volví a sentirme un poco más cohibido acerca de lo que estaba comiendo mientras todavía estábamos en contacto cercano con otras personas.

Cuando la pandemia golpeó el año pasado y todo se transfirió a Zoom, fui libre una vez más para explorar las especias que habíamos aprendido a amar. Como estábamos cocinando todas nuestras comidas, nos volvimos más creativos al usar estas especias y no teníamos que preocuparnos por ofender a nadie sentado a nuestro lado. Ya no tenemos que dudar en usar ajo, comino y cebolla en los muchos platos étnicos que ahora preparamos de manera regular.

Una llamada de Zoom


Hoy en día, en Zoom, no es raro notar que tus amigos varones se han olvidado de afeitarse, o que tus mujeres amigas pueden no teñirse el cabello con tanta frecuencia como de costumbre. Pero nadie se ha dado cuenta todavía de que acabo de terminar un plato de verduras con mucho ajo o un curry tailandés picante.


Poder cocinar y comer con abandono ha sido uno de los beneficios de estar encerrados. Y cuando nos aventuramos a ir de compras, usar nuestras mascarillas y seguir las reglas del distanciamiento social evita que tengamos que preocuparnos por si nuestro aliento puede oler


Esta es solo una de las formas en que hemos aprendido a encontrar algo positivo en el loco mundo trastornado en el que vivimos ahora.

Consultas Olfativas

Recientemente, se ha discutido mucho sobre la pérdida del sentido del olfato en las primeras etapas del COVID-19. Esto me recuerda mi introducción al arte del diagnóstico olfativo.


Hace casi 50 años, era estudiante de medicina en un hospital de la ciudad de Nueva York donde algunos de los edificios antiguos todavía tenían operadores de ascensores. Había una operadora que era conocida por los estudiantes de medicina (porque nos hacía preguntas) cuyas infecciones del tracto urinario por tricomonas eran obvias tan pronto como entramos en su ascensor.


Como pediatra durante más de 35 años en Florida, hubo muchas ocasiones en las que entré a la sala de examen y pude reconocer de inmediato el olor de las bacterias estreptocócicas que causan la infección de garganta del niño. Antes de que incluso me dijeran por qué habían venido a verme, les preguntaba: “¿Cuánto tiempo hace que tiene dolor de garganta?” y pensarían que soy un psíquico.

Olfactory Consults

Olfactory Consults

Recently, much has been discussed about the loss of the sense of smell in the early stages of COVID-19.  This reminds me of my introduction to the art of olfactory diagnosis.

Almost 50 years ago, I was a medical student at a New York City hospital where some of the old buildings still had elevator operators. There was one woman operator who was known to the medical students (because she would ask us questions) whose trichomonas urinary tract infections were obvious as soon as we entered her elevator. 

As a practicing pediatrician for over 35 years in Florida, there were many times that I would walk into the exam room and I could immediately recognize the smell of the streptococcal bacteria causing the child’s throat infection. Before they even told me why they had come in to see me, I would ask them, “How long have you had a sore throat?” and they would think I was psychic. 

¡No Juzgues!

En la primera entrega de nuestra nueva función mensual, Publicaciones de Oradores Invitados, mi yerno, Matt Hunt, escribió este artículo hace unas semanas.
Matt es piloto de la Guardia Costera de los Estados Unidos y vive con su familia en Sacramento, CA.

Mi yerno, Matt Hunt, el primero de los autores invitados

Es la temporada para dar, por eso pido humildemente que se me conceda gracia y perdón.

A los residentes que viven al este de la intersección de Northpark Drive y Opal Drive a lo largo del pequeño arroyo / barranco, por favor acepten mis más sinceras disculpas. En muchas carreras diurnas o nocturnas, admito que te juzgué por lo que me pareció un consumo irrazonable o irresponsable de lo que olía a Purple Kush. Estuve mal por mi parte hacerlo por varias razones.

Hace dos semanas, decidí escabullirme en una carrera nocturna antes de la cena por una de mis rutas favoritas. Iba a un ritmo de 8 a 9 minutos por milla en la acera cuando este perrito salió corriendo de los arbustos y se congeló en seco frente a mí. Pensé que este pobre perrito estaba perdido y necesitaba mi ayuda. Así que me agaché y rápidamente me di cuenta de que no era un perro y que no quería mi ayuda. (Tenga en cuenta que la siguiente parte de esta historia tarda menos de dos segundos en desarrollarse).

En la oscuridad, pude distinguir un pelaje blanco y unos dientes gruñendo, e inmediatamente pensé que esta zarigüeya con la que estoy cara a cara está a punto de destrozarme. En mi prisa, me moví rápidamente a la izquierda, pero la criatura se movió a la derecha. Luego me moví a la derecha, pero él / ella se movió a la izquierda. Al parecer, hemos llegado a un punto muerto. Cuando el animal dio media vuelta, escuché un sonido distinto que nunca olvidaré: “pffffffffffffff”.

Sentí que el rocío comenzaba en mis pies, subía por mi pierna, costado, brazo y cara izquierdos. ¡Entonces me di cuenta de que me habían rociado a quemarropa lo que solo podía ser una mofeta norteamericana!

“Pffffffffff,” dijo la mofeta

Empecé a correr y maldije en voz alta mientras pasaba corriendo junto a un caballero en la esquina. Me preguntó si estaba bien y todo lo que pude decir fue: “¡No vayas por ahí, mofeta!”. Mientras pasaba junto a él, dijo: “¡Vaya, eso huele muy mal!”

La peor parte fue que todavía tenía dos millas por recorrer antes de llegar a casa. Con cada paso, sentía que el spray se filtraba por cada poro y me chamuscaba los pelos de la nariz.

Cuando finalmente llegué a casa, le dije a nuestra hija que pusiera a Nanna en su habitación, abriera la ducha y buscara en la despensa cualquier cosa con base de tomate. Me desnudé en el porche delantero, subí corriendo las escaleras y me lavé durante casi 30 minutos.

Dicho todo esto, pude quitarme lo peor esa noche, pero tuve un ligero olor durante los siguientes dos días. Las únicas víctimas fueron mis zapatos para correr de confianza y una funda de silicona para iPhone.

A mis vecinos en la intersección, nuevamente les pido disculpas por juzgar y por las secuelas de mi incidente. Pasé corriendo junto a la escena al día siguiente y tuve que cruzar la calle para evadir el olor acre. Todos ustedes son verdaderos santos por compartir su extenso patio trasero con nuestros amigos, los Mephitidae.

A medida que continuamos invadiendo la naturaleza, debo recordarme que ellos estuvieron aquí primero y su presencia es una bendición.

Don’t Be Judgmental

In the first installment of our new monthly feature, Posts by Guest Speakers, my son-in-law, Matt Hunt, wrote this piece a few weeks ago. I thought it was perfect way to start this new column.

Matt is a pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard and lives with his family in Sacramento, CA.

Matt Hunt, and his plane at the Coast Guard station in Sacramento, CA

It’s the season for giving, so I humbly ask that grace and forgiveness be given to me. 

To the residents who live East of the Northpark Drive and Opal Drive intersection along the small creek/ravine, please accept my sincere apologies. On many day or night runs I admittedly judged you for what seemed to me unreasonable or irresponsible consumption of what smelled like a Purple Kush. It was wrong of me to do so for several reasons.

Two weeks ago, I decided to sneak in a before-dinner night run along one of my favorite routes. I was up to an 8-9 minute per mile pace on the sidewalk when this little dog ran out of the bushes and froze in its tracks in front of me. I thought this poor little dog was lost and needed my help. So I reached down and quickly realized it wasn’t a dog, and he/she did not want my help. (Mind you the next part of this story takes less than two seconds to unfold.) 

In the darkness, I could make out some white fur and snarling teeth, and I immediately thought this possum I’m face-to-face with is about to tear me up. In my haste I quickly moved left, but the critter moved right. Then I moved right, but he/she moved left. We’ve apparently reached an impasse. As the animal did an about face,  I heard a distinct sound I will never forget – “pffffffffffffff.” 

I felt the spray starting at my feet, up my left leg, side, arm and face. I then I realized I had been sprayed at point-blank range by what could only be a North American skunk!!!

“Pfffffffffff!” said the skunk

I started sprinting away and cursed loudly as I ran past a gentleman on the corner. He asked me if I was okay and all I could get out was, “Don’t go that way – skunk!”. As I continued past him, he said “Wow, that smells really bad!”

The worst part was that I still had two miles to run before reaching home. With every stride, I felt the spray seep in to every pore and singe my nose hairs.

When I finally got home, I told our daughter to put Nanna in her bedroom, start the shower and search the pantry for anything with a tomato base. I got naked on the front porch and sprinted up the stairs and scrubbed myself for a better part of 30 minutes.

All said, I was able to wash off the worst of it that night, but I carried a slight odor for the next two days. The only casualties were my trusted running shoes and a silicone iPhone case.

To my neighbors at the intersection, I again apologize for being judgmental and for the aftermath of my incident. I ran past the scene the very next day and had to cross the street to evade the pungent smell. Y’all are true saints for sharing your extended backyard with our friends, the Mephitidae.

As we continue to encroach on nature, I have to remind myself that they were here first and their presence is a blessing!

Waiting for the Chickens

When my wife and I were visiting New Zealand a few years ago, our first stop after the long flight was at a hotel, the Waitakere Resort, just outside of Auckland. It was a perfect place to recover from the jetlag and as we found out, to tune our ears to the Kiwi accent that we were about to hear for the next month of our trip.

The resort was high up in the Waitakere Ranges, the picturesque mountains west of the city. The hotel within view of the city of Auckland was within a 20-minute drive from the airport and was situated high above the beautiful beach town of Piha.

The road leading to the resort is Scenic Road, a very apt name. The actual entrance to the hotel is a narrow winding road designed for only one vehicle in either direction. When I expressed my anxiety about leaving the resort along this road, the receptionist suggested that I try to avoid it during the early afternoon because that was when the “chickens would be arriving.”

The chickens are arriving

We figured that she meant that poultry would be featured on the dinner menu even though we had been looking forward to tasting New Zealand lamb. It wasn’t until we were leaving two days later that the receptionist was referring to the guests who were arriving or “chicking in” to the hotel!

Besides learning that the New Zealand and Australian accents were very different, we discovered that Piha Beach was the location featured in the wonderful series, “800 Words”, which was great for bingeing during the 2020 Pandemic. It was fun seeing many familiar sites such as the picture below.

Piha Beach, New Zealand

Esperando Los Pollos

See Auckland in the northern end of North Island

Cuando mi esposa y yo visitamos Nueva Zelanda hace unos años, nuestra primera parada después del largo vuelo fue en un hotel, el Waitakere Resort, en las afueras de Auckland. Era un lugar perfecto para recuperarnos del jetlag y, como descubrimos, para sintonizar nuestros oídos con el acento kiwi que estábamos a punto de escuchar durante el próximo mes de nuestro viaje.

El complejo estaba en lo alto de Waitakere Ranges, las pintorescas montañas al oeste de la ciudad. El hotel a la vista de la ciudad de Auckland estaba a 20 minutos en coche del aeropuerto y estaba situado muy por encima de la hermosa ciudad costera de Piha.

El camino que conduce al complejo es Scenic Road, un nombre muy apropiado. La entrada real al hotel es una carretera estrecha y sinuosa diseñada para un solo vehículo en cualquier dirección. Cuando expresé mi ansiedad por dejar el resort por este camino, la recepcionista sugirió que tratara de evitarlo durante las primeras horas de la tarde porque era cuando “the chickens would be arriving”  (“iban a llegar las gallinas”.)

Pensamos que quería decir que las aves de corral aparecerían en el menú de la cena a pesar de que teníamos ganas de probar el cordero de Nueva Zelanda. ¡No fue sino hasta que nos íbamos dos días después que la recepcionista se refería a los huéspedes que registraban (‘checking in”)  o “entraban” al hotel!

Además de enterarnos de que los acentos neozelandés y australiano eran muy diferentes, descubrimos que Piha Beach era el lugar destacado en la maravillosa serie “800 Words”, que fue excelente para atracones durante la pandemia de 2020. Fue divertido ver muchos sitios conocidos, como la imagen de abajo.

Piha Beach, NZ

Sick and Well Waiting Rooms

An essay in the “World Through a Lens” series appeared in the New York Times Travel Section recently which reminded me of something that happened soon after I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida over 40 years ago.    It was written by a Seattle-based photographer, Richard Frishman, who traveled across the United States “to document the vestiges of racism in America” in a stunning piece called “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Ghosts of Segregation.”    

In 1980, I was new to “the South.”  Having spent my entire childhood in New Jersey and all my undergraduate and post-graduate years “up North” in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, I definitely had preconceived notions of what it would be like to live and work in Florida.

When I came to South Florida, I found it a curious combination of North and South.  Given that there were many retirees from the North, many people viewed the tri-county area of Dade (Miami), Broward (Ft. Lauderdale) and Palm Beach as “the sixth borough of New York City.”  I soon found out that my county, Palm Beach, had an unusual mixture of different demographic elements.  On the Atlantic side on the east lay the town of Palm Beach was a mostly elite class of very wealthy people.  The middle of the county was a mixture of working-class and professional people made up of geographically separated whites, Blacks and Hispanics.  The majority of the Hispanic population during those early years were middle-class Cubans who had migrated from the counties further south. 

But fifty miles inland, the primarily agricultural area called “The Glades” was located.  Except for the small number of mostly white and Hispanic landowners, the population was made up of poor Blacks of American and Caribbean origin. There was a striking difference compared to the rest of the people in the county.  During those years, I often saw diseases among the children from that area that I had not seen except in underdeveloped countries which I had visited.  Conditions in the Glades were so abysmal that they rivaled other poverty zones in the “Deep South” of the United States and third-world countries.

I present this background because I was very naïve to the conditions in which I would be working in my first job in Florida. After all, I was a young, idealistic doctor whose sole experience up to that point was working in an inner-city hospital in New York and in a government-sponsored clinic in Baltimore.  Like most new doctors, I thought “I had seen it all.” 

On my first site visit before I was hired, I was pleased to see a new concept in pediatric offices.  There were two waiting rooms:  One for “Sick” and the other for “Well” patients. 

Later that year, when I entered my new workplace on my first day, I wasn’t prepared for something that truly shocked me.  As the office manager led me through the two adjacent waiting rooms on our way back to the inner area of the office, I told her that I was so impressed that I would be part of such a forward-thinking office with a two waiting rooms.

“Oh,” she paused, waiting to deliver me the shocking news.  “You obviously come from up North.  Those were the white patients’ waiting room and the colored patients’ waiting room, as it was back in the 50s when I first started working here.” 

You could have blown me over with that explanation!