30 January 2007

Not-so-dead language

This morning I was told that I would have to be at work at 6:15am tomorrow morning in order to do the research part of a pre-op research MRI.

This generally involves preparing the MRI suite by stocking the bed with hot packs, warm blankets, assorted pressure cuffs and blood gas syringes and programming the monitors for a neonate (baby less than 28 days old). Then, if all goes well (it's about 7am), the baby is brought down from the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to the scanner by the anesthesiologist who will participate in the baby's impending heart surgery and the baby is placed in the scanner for an hour. I spend most of this hour recording vitals, sedation doses, running blood gas samples and results slips back and forth to the cath lab (catheterisation lab) and, of course, eating donuts. Then the baby goes off to surgery and I go back to my usual job (it's now about 8am).

Later this afternoon, however, the scan was called off because we couldn't get consent from the parents. They were not unwilling, so far as we could tell, but unfortunately no one speaks their primary language and I honestly haven't the faintest clue where to get ahold of a translator that speaks Aramaic. Yes, that's right, Aramaic. As in, lanuage commonly believe to be the one Jesus used and is generally thought to be less prevalent than Latin. I mean, how many high school Aramaic clubs have you heard of?

In the few hours that I was seriously pursuing the idea of getting a translation made of our consent form, I learned a little about the Aramaic language. It is, rather logically, an Afro-Asianic, Semetic language whose status is not actually "dead" but "endagered". It is the original language of the books of Ezra and Daniel and is the primary language of the Talmud. 400,000+ people speak modern Aramaic, mostly Assynians, though the communities are small and geographically scattered. It is frequently confused with the Ethopian language Amharic (also a Semetic language).

In case you are curious, the baby needed heart surgery for a transposition of great arteries (TGA), which is exactly what it sounds like. The pulmonary artery is joined to the left atrium and the aorta is attached to the right atrium (in a healthy person it is the reverse). The net effect is that the blood in the pulmonary (lung) circulation does not get to the body and the systemic (body) blood doesn't get to the lungs to be oxygentated. There is a small amount of mixing, facilitated by the ductus arteriosus (a small duct between the two arteries) that is artificially kept open through the administration of prostaglandins.


Andrew said...

You're at UPENN. There isn't some humanities scholar that studies biblical/ancient texts that would know aramaic?

design42 said...

Quite possibly, but they would know old Aramaic, not modern Aramaic. I'm pretty sure there are no words from Jesus' time to cover stroke, MRI, transposition of great arteries, or embolism.