Real Life Stories

MAMI interpreters could tell you hundreds of stories about patients and clients whose lives were dramatically improved – simply because an interpreter was available and effective in transmitting important information from provider to client. Below are a few samples of touching and compelling real life stories…

One Good Interpreter Can Help to Save a Life

One interpreter remembers one incident in great detail. Little Lili (name changed) was born with a urinary tract problem. She had had several surgeries in the past and her doctor was in the process of evaluating her status. Certain tests were completed and the doctor’s office felt it was critical to have the child brought in immediately for a follow-up check up.

The doctor’s office called the home where the son answered the phone. He did not understand the importance of the call and the parents did not respond – nor did they take the girl in for the check-up.

Having received no response, the doctor’s office called the MAMI office and asked for the interpreter to call and to relay the seriousness of the situation. That afternoon the parents brought the child in and, with interpreter support, were shocked to discover that this was, indeed, a life-and-death situation. The child was immediately admitted to the hospital where she remained for one week.

Today, this little girl continues to receive medical care. An interpreter is always there to assist in ensuring that no miscommunication happens.

Cultural Differences Can Lead to Serious Misunderstandings

A pregnant woman had a doctor’s appointment. She had no interpreter. When she arrived, the nurse tried to communicate with her that the doctor needed to do a pap smear – a test that is not done in her native country.

The nurse tried to get her to lie back and to spread her legs so that the test could be completed. The patient refused, got angry and got up to leave. The nurse had no way of explaining the importance of the test to the woman.

Finally, someone suggested getting a trained interpreter. When the MAMI interpreter arrived, she noticed that the patient was extremely agitated. She asked the physician for permission to speak with the patient and ask her why she was so upset.

“She thought that the doctors wanted to take her baby,” said the interpreter. “I explained to her that, although pap smears are not done in our country, they can show if there is any infection that needs to be treated – to protect the mother and the child. I also told her that it would not hurt the baby.”

Once the woman understood what the doctor was trying to do, she felt relieved and was willing to let the doctor do the pap smear.

“It was all a big misunderstanding due to the lack of interpreter.” Since that time, both doctor and patient have continued to use trained interpreters, realizing that communication is critical to ensure complete understanding between provider and client.

How Can the Patient Comply with Doctor’s Orders if He Doesn’t Understand?

Lora was only eight years old but she had a major responsibility – to interpret for her parents whenever they took her infant baby brother to the doctor’s office.

The baby was seriously underweight. The doctor had told the family that the baby was allergic to wheat gluten and should not be given any wheat products. Something got lost in the interpretation and the family kept the regular routine, trying to care for the baby the best they could. He continued to be severely underweight.

One day, MAMI received a call from the doctor’s office to interpret for the family. The MAMI interpreter responded. The doctor was very concerned that the family had not been complying with his orders to remove all wheat products from the diet. It could kill the baby if he continued to be fed these products.

The family finally understood the importance of complying with the doctor’s orders. And the baby began to grow and develop happily.

Both the doctor and the family are very grateful that a trained interpreter was able to play a small part in helping the child begin to grow healthy and strong.