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Language no barrier as Belarus couple are treated in Solihull

12 December 2017

A married couple who don’t speak a word of English have travelled all the way from Belarus to have hand surgery at Spire Parkway Hospital.

Grigori Katselapov and his wife Vailiantsina travelled over 1,500 miles to meet with specialist hand and wrist surgeon Mr Gunaratnam Shyamalan at Spire Parkway Hospital.

And because of the language barriers he then had to carry out his consultation while facetiming the couple’s son who is based in Cyprus!

“To say it was a first for me is a bit of an understatement,” said Mr Shyam. “I have had patients from various parts of the world but these were definitely my first two from Belarus.

“It seems their son carried out a lot of research on the internet to find the person he wanted to treat his parents. In the past he has sent them to doctors in Switzerland for various treatments but he decided that as they both needed treatment to their hands he wanted them to see me.”

Mr Katselapov was treated for Dupuytrens - a condition where one or more fingers become permanently bent into the palm in a fist-like position. It usually begins as small hard nodules just under the skin of the palm but then worsens over time until the fingers can no longer be straightened.

Mr Shyam explained: “I was able to treat this with Xiapex injection which has an enzyme that dissolves diseased collagen in the hand and loosens the tightened contractile cord and allows the fingers to straighten and so work normally again. I can do this procedure in clinic so an operation isn’t necessary.

“The fingers respond almost immediately and after a session or two of hand therapy the patient usually has full use of their hand.”

As for Mrs Katselapov, she had carpal tunnel syndrome which causes pain, numbness, with pins and needles in the thumb and fingers for which she received steroid injections.

Both treatments went well and the couple were booked in for a hand therapy session at the hospital a few days later.

Just when it looked like the language barrier could become a problem, it was discovered that a Healthcare Assistant at the hospital was from Belarus and happy to act as a translator.

Natalia came to England 16 years ago but has only been at Parkway for the last four months. She said: “I was happy to help and it was lovely to speak to people from back home. They are a lovely couple and it was a pleasure to meet them.”

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