In Tucson, Arizona, a Language Line translator helped deliver a baby over the phone last weekend, according to this article in the Arizona Star. The baby’s family all spoke Spanish, so when the father-to-be called 911 to report that his wife was about to give birth, the language barrier made an already nerve-wracking situation even more complicated.
The dispatcher who received the call, James Charron, is not bilingual and doesn’t speak Spanish. He understood just enough to figure out what was going on, but not enough to communicate accurately with the family. Tucson’s emergency dispatch system relies on Language Line to translate for non-English speaking callers.
Through Language Line translator Paola Anderson, Charron was able to provide instructions to the baby’s father and father-in-law to help them deliver the child safely on their own.
During the ordeal, the woman and her family were not the only ones who were nervous. Anderson was nervous too, afraid that making a mistake in translation could have serious consequences. As she told the Arizona Star, “I thought a little mistake could have resulted in something bad.”
According to the report, the baby girl was born healthy. Both Charron and Anderson are proud to have helped bring her into the world. “I feel like a godmother,” Anderson told the Arizona Star.
This story underscores why it so important to have well-trained, knowledgeable interpreters. Especially in medical situations!
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Tucson’s Emergency 911 Communications Center actually has a number of Spanish-speaking dispatchers and 911 operators on staff. The Language Line is used as a back-up in the event one is not available when needed. Based on 911/Language Line statistics, the most prevalent languages needing interpretation in the Tucson area are Spanish, Russian and Somali, in that order.