Perspectives on Family Members as Interpreters
Communication after a Car Accident
by Gerald Olson
Hello, my name is Gerald Olson. I work at Second Harvest. One day on my way to work, I was driving down a two lane road. I came to a part of the road that was a steep decline, followed by a steep incline. As I was going down the hill, my car began to veer to the right, and then suddenly, my car began to spin out.
There was another car coming from the opposite direction. I could not steer away from that car, and the two cars collided. After the crash, I was able to get out of my car by I felt extremely dizzy and I had no control over my body movements. Finally I was able to sit down on the side of the road.
A police officer arrived at the scene and approached me. He was frantically asking if I was okay. I was able to gesture to him that I am deaf. Then the office took a pad of paper from his shirt pocket and began to write things down in order to communicate with me. However, I was still dizzy after the crash that it was difficult for me to see what he had wrote, and even more difficult to write anything back to him.
Next, an ambulance showed up on the scene. The EMTs immediately transported me into the vehicle. They looked me over to make sure nothing was broken or severely injured. They too tried to communicate with me through writing, but still I was in such a haze that I could not read the notes. I felt trapped because I had no interpreter to facilitate communication. Then, the ambulance rushed me to the hospital.
Once we arrived at the hospital, the pattern continued. The doctor tried to communicate with me using a pen and paper as well. And still, it was difficult for me to read what the doctor was writing. Finally, the doctor called my wife. I waited for more than an hour and a half for my wife to arrive. The doctor wanted my wife to help him write back and forth with me. My wife had brought my son with her and since he was only 12 years old, he could not be in the room.
My wife told the doctor that I needed an interpreter. The doctor disagreed and the two argued about it. Finally an interpreter showed up and I no longer had to communicate through paper and pen. The doctor and I were finally able to communicate with much more ease through the interpreter.
I had to stay in the hospital the rest of the night and into the next day. It was wonderful to have an interpreter present so that I could easily communicate with the doctors and nurses.
That is my car accident story.
Can't Your Wife Interpret?
by Lee Clark
The next situation that I’m going to tell you comes from a case I worked on that involves a Deaf man who has a DeafBlind wife. The Deaf man had an appointment for a physical. He informed the nurse that he needed to set up another doctor’s appointment, but he informed the nurse that he would need an interpreter. The nurse sternly told him no; she said that he would need to have his wife come with him to interpret the appointment.
He was taken aback by the nurse’s poor attitude. He left the doctor’s office, then came back another day with his wife for the appointment. When they arrived, the nurse asked, “Where is your interpreter?”
He told her, “This is my wife, you told me to bring her to be my interpreter.”
The nurse became anxious and said, “Your wife is blind! She can’t interpret for you!”
He repeated himself and said, “Well, I asked you for an interpreter and you told me to bring my wife, so here she is.” The nurse was completely bewildered, and the point was made.