You may find this hard to believe. Once, I did an over the phone interpretation for a patient who could not speak at all. Here is the true story.
I picked up the phone and a nurse introduced herself. She briefed me on the situation. Her patient could not speak at all and there was no family member or friend with him.
Even though I responded, “Thank you and I am ready for your instructions” a courtesy phrase that I use at the beginning of every call, I had no idea how the interpretation could proceed.
However, the nurse seemed to be able to read my mind on the other side of the phone, far away in a different country. She said, “Don’t worry, I will only ask him Yes or No questions. He will answer by raising one arm to say Yes and two arms to say No. Interpreter, please go ahead ask if he understands.”
So, I started interpreting for the patient:
“Hi Sir, I am your interpreter. Please raise one arm when your answer is Yes, and raise two arms when your answer is No. Do you understand?”
Then I heard the nurse say, “One arm up, so he understands.” I felt quite relieved at that moment, as the patient obviously was conscious and understanding.
The nurse and I continued: “Do you still feel pain?” The question was answered by one, raised arm “Yes.”
The next question was: “Would you like us to try our best to make you feel as comfortable as possible?” The answer was again answered by one raised arm, a Yes.
At this point I had become quite confident that the interpretation would go smoothly.
Then the third question came, which was also the last question.
As it turned out, it went as follows: “If your heart stops beating, would you like us to use resuscitation to bring you back?”
Shockingly and sadly, this question was answered by two arms, a No! The interpretation was over; the nurse thanked me for my service.
It is true that my interpretation was of essential importance in this short call but the call also has since left me with many complicated feelings: