The United States of America has hundreds of languages that are used every day by large percentages of its population. The most widely used language besides English is Spanish. The U.S. has had trouble providing translation for non-English speaking people for years, but in the case of Spanish, things did improve. But this was not the case 3 years ago.
On April 12, 2011, a 9-1-1 call came in from a person saying that their wife, a 25-year-old woman, was having trouble breathing. The person who called was speaking Spanish so an interpreter was added to the call. The caller gave and address and an ambulance was dispatched only to arrive at the wrong destination. The medical team called to confirm the address and only then did they receive the correct address. The emergency team arrived at the scene 26 minutes after the first call was made.
The medical team found Elidiana Valdez-Lemus, mother of three, on the ground and not breathing, she hasn’t been breathing for 14 minutes. Three days later, the woman died and the family made the decision to take her off life support.
The family has opened a suit asking for $1 Million for “pre-death” suffering and also a maximum of $2 Million for the suffering and loss of the family.
On the source of the article, you can see the entire timeline of the events, which goes as follows:
– Call came in at 4:43 a.m. on April 12, 2011
– Husband said that: “My wife says she cannot breathe”
– Interpreter told the 9-1-1 call taker that the person said: “My wife is short of breathe”
– When asked for an address, the caller said: “2601 111th Avenue”
– Interpreter said to the call taker: “2600 101st Avenue”
– Seven minutes later, the medics arrived at the wrong address at 4:50 a.m.
– At 4:55 a.m., the woman stopped breathing.
– At 4:58 a.m., medics got the correct address.
– At 5:09 a.m., they arrive at the correct address.
The attorney representing the dead woman’s estate said the death was completely preventable.
This tragic story only adds to a large number of similar stories where lack of proper translation and interpretation lead to families being torn apart.
There are professional interpreting services and translation services for a reason. The reason is that we, as humans, need to be able to communicate efficiently. When we cannot do this because of circumstances or language barriers, there are people out there willing to help and make the connection possible.