A good Court Interpreter may need to know Medical Interpreting.
January 10, 2012 § 8 Comments
A few weeks ago I was in a situation that had never occurred in my more than twenty years of court interpreting. I was hired to interpret for the defendant in a federal criminal trial that was supposed to take place somewhere in middle-America. I arrived for my assignment, met with the parties and the defendant, and began to work. On the very first day, before the jury was selected, the Judge was informing the defendant that the Government had discovered that he had additional prior convictions. He was now facing the possibility of life in prison. As the Judge was talking to the defendant, this individual, who had a history of health problems, collapsed and had a seizure. The U.S. Marshalls immediately called 9-11 and the facility’s staff nurse.
As the defendant was on the courtroom floor, gasping for air and contorting his body, everybody in the courtroom realized that he did not speak a word of English! Nobody in the entire courthouse spoke Spanish but me. The same facts became apparent when the paramedics arrived and began to ask questions to determine the defendant’s medical condition. The Marshalls and paramedics asked questions through me, and when the time came to take the defendant to the emergency room, the Judge asked me if I would go with them. The hospital had a telephonic remote interpreting system, but no interpreter physically at the E.R.
Because of some medical interpreting I did over a decade ago, I was able to remember what to do, and assisted the medical personnel until the defendant was stabilized. Throughout this time I realized how important it is for us as court interpreters to know the basics of medical interpreting for these situations when we are the only “lifeline” for the patient, and made me think of our medical interpreter colleagues and the vital role they play in other people’s lives. I think it would be beneficial to all of us to hear some similar stories that you may had experienced.