Most people aren’t aware that translating is the art of rendering written words into another language. Interpreting, however, is an extreme talent where spoken words are listened to, processed, and then shared out loud in a different language. It is through interpreting (and some translating) that Siloam is able to operate the way it does. Through the dedication of volunteers, bilingual providers and staff, and with help of a language line, refugees and immigrants can receive excellent health care.
Through my own observation and interaction with interpreters I’ve realized that interpreting takes a lot of patience and amazing listening skills, but also has the beautiful ability to express true living emotion. This way of communicating, using an interpreter, is slowly starting to become a part of my daily life. I am learning how to appreciate the extra time during interpreting to see things in a brand new light. I have time to let my mind wander and take notice of the patient’s body language, the clothes they are wearing, and any other social cues that I otherwise would have missed.
I went on a house call in which the language line was used to interpret our conversation with “Arun,” a Burmese man struggling with severe depression. He has been suffering from very bad headaches and numbness since leaving Burma via Malaysia, and eventually arriving in the United States. He is disappointed in himself for not being able to keep a job and feels he is missing out on the opportunities he thought America would be able to offer. This is extremely hard for him to deal with, as he is not able to support his wife who is still in Burma. We began to wrap up the house call by praying for him and we also invited the interpreter to pray with us, as well. Although our interpreter did not pray, her voice became more somber and worked harder to mimic our inflection throughout the prayer. We do not know our interpreter’s story, her religion or even her name but I do know that by communicating with Arun, we also impacted the interpreter’s life.
The bible is translated into many, many different languages and even more versions. In its simplest sense it is God’s living word translated for us all to read. It is these very words, God’s words, that bring us hope when we have none, share his never ending love and grace when we don’t deserve it, and gives us strength when we are at our weakest. I feel that as Christians we should be God’s interpreters and just be still and listen to what God has to share with us and relay that message through our actions.
Madison is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.
It is hard to believe that a week has already gone by here in Nashville as a member of the Community Health Immersion. We have been a part of so many diverse opportunities it makes me wonder what else there could possibly be to see! Yet, I know that there is a great deal left to experience and I cannot help but crave more. Please let me just share with you several moments that have stuck out to me this past week:
The first thing I noticed when I initially walked into the Siloam clinic was the enthusiasm the staff had when greeting us. Everybody who was there shared a smile and the friendly atmosphere quickly took away any nerves or anxiety I have accrued the past several months – especially in the car ride over that morning. It was not hard to see that the same anticipation I had for Siloam, they had for me. This theme continued throughout the week as we encountered new staff and volunteers, members in the community, and the liaisons from our respective churches. Even as the week wore on and exhaustion began to set in, the happiness and joy I found in those I encountered kept the fire inside of me burning and made getting up in the morning worth it even more.
Another moment that I cannot shake from my mind happened on the first day. In the morning we had all been placed with an incoming refugee family for their first examination in America. Each family had an interpreter assigned to allow for the best care to be provided; it was amazing to hear that many of them were volunteering their time for this. I had the wonderful opportunity of spending the morning with a Bhutanese family moving here from their refugee camp in Nepal. As I sat in the main room listening to instructions being read and conversing with them through the interpreter I allowed for my ears to take in the sounds from around the room…or rather from around the world. It felt as if I had stepped into an international radio station as I heard words being spoken from all across the globe. It was very powerful to experience the clash of cultures in one small room, to know that through the chaos in the room they were being cared for through the love of Christ, and also to feel the sense of hope both in that main room and in the individual exam rooms.
In addition to following the refugees on Monday morning, there were plenty of opportunities to spend time with the providers in the clinic, and numerous orientations which helped us better understand what to look for and what to expect these next few weeks. Any excitement for this immersion I felt before can now be increased tremendously as I prepare to see how I will be used in the future and during this summer.
Elias is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.
Leon Darghosian is a research fellow at Vanderbilt University who volunteers at Siloam as an Arabic interpreter. He writes of his experience…
A friend introduced me to Siloam Family Health Center when I was looking for a place to volunteer ten months ago. Being a physician from Syria and doing research work at Vanderbilt, a volunteer role at Siloam would help me better know the community where I’ve lived for the last two years.
At first, Siloam sounded just like any other medical clinic that treats people but the longer I’ve been there the more I’ve come to realize that it is an extraordinary clinic. I’ve always thought that the spiritual element does not factor into a physician’s career. But it has become clear to me during my time at Siloam that the spiritual dimension can take place in treating patients. During one busy shift, I saw Dr. Morgan Wills, whom I describe as a humble doctor, pray over his patient. This was a very touching gesture that moved me to understand that as a doctor and as a person, I can serve and share God’s grace to everyone who comes in for healing. This has changed the way I look at my career.
Two months ago, I was interpreting for Dr. Kristin Martel who was seeing an elderly patient who was coughing and holding her abdomen in pain. After Dr. Martel’s treatment, I could tell by the look in the patient’s eyes that she was given extraordinary care. All these experiences heightened my enthusiasm to practice medicine and incorporate the experiences that Siloam gave me.
My volunteering taught me the fundamental lesson of treating the whole person and treating every patient with compassion. Being an international fellow, Siloam is home to me. I am at ease working with other volunteers and doctors. There is something in the clinic and in the people inside of it that gives me a big reason to go and serve after my work.
Siloam is place where I experienced God’s presence.
Siloam is a place where God works through people.
Siloam is a place where you and I would want to be.
House calls are an aspect of the medical field that I thought had been buried in the history of medicine. At Siloam Family Health Center, I discovered that this practice has not been put to rest, yet. The past week, I embarked on a local house call with Dr. Henderson to visit a patient of the clinic. At first, I was really nervous because I was not sure what to expect.
I did not know the patient and was not sure if we would encounter any language barriers. I secretly hoped it was somebody who spoke Spanish because I knew I could help interpret. In part, I was just terrified that we would not be able to communicate and help the patient. I was also afraid of how the patient would react to the fact that we were invading her home.
The patient did not speak English or Spanish – she spoke Karen (a tribal language of Burma). My worries increased as we struggled to find an interpreter for the patient; however, we were able to locate someone to interpret relatively quickly. I could not help but be amazed at how great God’s timing is in both our professional and personal lives.
As we entered, the family was surprised to see a doctor walk in with three students following him. Once in the patient’s home, we were welcomed with open arms. It must have been odd for them to see strangers come into their house and sit down around the living room. I noticed that by seeing the patient in her own home we instantly bonded with her. We entered the world of the patient which opened our eyes to issues the patient faced.
Time started to matter less while the interests of the patient became our main priority. I felt like I was not a stranger anymore but a friend of the family. It was here that I began to see what it really means to care for a patient.