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Mid-City CAN Blog

In my own words: In-person medical translation critical

About 80 residents attended the Mid-City CAN Access to Health Care Momentum Team Community Conversation May 31 at the East African Community and Culture Center. Many City Heights residents shared stories about the importance of in-person translation during medical care. Johora Musa, a City Heights resident who is a member of the Mid-City CAN Access to Health Care Momentum Team, talked about her experience with interpretation problems about five years ago when she was pregnant and had not yet learned to speak English.

By Johora Musa

Johora Musa, a City Heights resident who is a member of the Mid-City CAN Access to Health Care Momentum Team, talked about the difficulties she had navigating the medical system about five years ago when she was pregnant and didn’t speak English. “For me, I accepted it because I didn’t understand what they were saying,” she said. Photo by Adam Ward
Johora Musa, a City Heights resident who is a member of the Mid-City CAN Access to Health Care Momentum Team, talked about the difficulties she had navigating the medical system about five years ago when she was pregnant and didn’t speak English. “For me, I accepted it because I didn’t understand what they were saying,” she said. Photo by Adam Ward

I went to a clinic so a doctor could help me. I was sick. I had a headache. I was pregnant. I had neck pain and I needed treatment. They gave me papers to sign, then she gave me a medicine.

"You have a – they call it – a migraine," the doctor said. "You need to take medicine."

She told me I have to go rest, to sleep.

But I still didn't get better, so I went to the emergency room. They call the doctors. They see my pain.

They realized the baby doesn't even move.

They ask me, "What medicine are you taking?"

I showed the medicine. They see the medicine that I'm using, and they take it and throw it away.

They told me, "Now you are OK. You can go home."

When I went home the sickness returned, the same thing, but I didn't go back.

Later, I went to the hospital, I had the baby.

The baby has a seizure. The baby turns blue. One time, the nurse comes to the room to give the baby a bath, I hear her say, "Oh my God, Oh my God."

The baby was in the hospital for one month, and then they told us the day we left, "This baby needs to get surgery."

My daughter got an operation two times because of the problems she had when she was in my belly.

For me, I accepted it because I didn't understand what they were saying, and then they called an interpreter from another state.

The interpreter didn't speak Kizigua.

We don't hear each other, we don't understand each other.

He said, "You say 'Yes, yes.' "

When I say, "Yes," the doctors do something.

On the telephone, interpreters are talking to you, but you don't understand what they are saying. The interpreters you are talking to, they tell you "Just say, 'Yes.' "

We need interpreters face-to-face. We don't need interpreters on the phone. We need interpreters that can speak your language. We have a big problem in the clinics, in the hospitals. Sometimes they give you a bunch of papers.

If an interpreter who speaks your language reads it, you will know everything.

All the African people that are from East Africa or South Africa, we need interpreters. It is an important thing.

 

By Jama Mohamed

Jama Mohamed,  a City Heights resident, Access to Health Care member and Somali interpreter for the group said he felt pressured as a child when he was the main interpreter for his mother, who was diagnosed with diabetes. Photo by Adam Ward

Jama Mohamed,  a City Heights resident, Access to Health Care member and Somali interpreter for the group, said he felt pressured as a child when he was the main interpreter for his mother, who was diagnosed with diabetes.

Photo by Adam Ward

Mohamed is a City Heights resident, Access to Health Care member and Somali interpreter for the group.

When I was 9 or 10, my mom got sick, with diabetes. My mom began depending on me to interpret for her. As a young kid, not having adequate understanding of the English language, it was difficult. Sometimes I had to try to make things simple that were complicated. As I grew and became a student of the English language, it got easier.

As a young kid, nobody deserves to be pressured that much. There are other people that I see in the clinics that are having these issues. Their kids are interpreting for them. For the new generation, they hardly speak any of their home language. Their biggest problem is their kids don't speak Somali as well as I did.

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