Life as a medical interpreter on the frontlines against COVID-19

Rural Hospital Reopens
Posted at 6:38 PM, Dec 14, 2020

PHOENIX — Medical interpreters work side by the side with the doctors and nurses trying to save people from the pandemic.

But, the work as a medical interpreter goes beyond assisting patients to communicate in English with their healthcare providers.

“We treat them like family, no matter where they’re from, who they are,” said Dina Miranda, a medical interpreter at Banner Estrella Medical Center.

Medical interpreters like Miranda are oftentimes the person having to tell a son or daughter that their mom or dad is dying.

“It hurts when we have to make those types of conversations or communication. But the fact that we’re reporting to the family in their own language I think helps them to maybe accept it a little bit better,” expressed Miranda.

The task they must endure is not only heartbreaking, but also dangerous during this pandemic.

Still, Miranda says, medical interpreters are proud to be able to bring comfort during a time of sadness.

She says most of the time they’re the only person a patient has inside a hospital room since visitors are not allowed.

“The fact that we’re there speaking their language, I think gives them peace of mind.”

However, Miranda also needs some reassurance that she and her family will be safe.

So, she’s asking the public, to stay home and to do all you can to protect her and one another.

“We need to follow the guidelines that the CDC has for us. Always mask up whenever you’re out. Come to the hospital of course if you’re not feeling well and have shortness of breath, but if you don’t have symptoms, I don’t think it is necessary for you to come to the hospital to get tested,” stated Miranda.

This same advice is what Elsa Osorio says she is following after testing positive for COVID-19.

Osorio says her symptoms are mild, deciding not to go to a hospital.

“The symptoms weren’t severe to take the place of someone who really needs it.”

Osorio started having symptoms days before Thanksgiving, but she says she didn’t recognize them and now regrets exposing her family during their holiday dinner.

“I’m encouraged to feel better soon, so I can see my children. The most hurtful part is that we live just a few feet away and I can only see them through the window,” expressed Osorio.

Her message too is simple: please wear a mask.

“It’s a protection. I feel thanks to the mask my immune defenses didn’t weaken.”

Osorio doesn’t speak English and hopes she continues doing well at home to avoid exposing a medical interpreter.

“I would worry about that person because I would be putting her and her loved one’s health at risk.”