Interpreters Build Bridges

12/05/2017
CHA Spanish Medical Language Interpreter, Lina Garcia-Kosko, shares why she is studying to become an American Sign Language Interpreter.

Lina’s smile popped around the cubicle before anything else. Her welcoming nature helps in her role as a Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) Spanish Language Medical Interpreter and an integral part of the CHA health care team.

Many people don’t realize that interpreters are much more than translators, they are a bridge between caretakers and patients. “A few months ago, I was interpreting for a patient receiving physical therapy at CHA Cambridge Hospital,” Lina explained. “The woman was experiencing dizziness and when she stood for an assessment, the physical therapist asked if she was all right. When the patient asked for alcohol, the physical therapist was visibly confused. I had to explain that in some Central American countries, people believe that breathing alcohol fumes can reduce dizziness.” She passed an alcohol wipe to the woman who took a few sniffs and felt relief. Bridging cultural barriers is a normal part of being an interpreter at CHA.

CHA offers interpreter support in over 60 languages for patients to ensure language isn’t a barrier to receiving the best care possible. And, interpreters are available at all three CHA hospitals in Cambridge, Somerville and Everett, as well as all 12 of their primary care sites across the Cambridge, Somerville and Metro North area. During her time at CHA, Lina has interpreted in primary care locations, during specialty visits, in the emergency department, and also for people admitted to the hospital. She represents all CHA staff who are both teachers and students in the delivery of multi-cultural and multi-dimensional care.

Lina came to the United states almost 16 years ago when her family immigrated from Colombia. They came so that her older sister, who is deaf, could get a Cochlear™ Hearing implant. Lina had no idea that her work skills of bridging cultural barriers would also be beneficial to her family.

“In Colombia, deaf people are forced to read lips and integrate into the hearing culture, often times leaving deaf people very isolated,” explained Lina. “My sister, Karen, could not communicate with my family and she often misunderstood what was happening around her.”

When Karen arrived in the United States as a young adult she was operating at a second grade learning level. She immediately learned sign language when she enrolled at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, and began to excel in school. Lina also started learning sign language and was introduced to deaf culture – a special bond grew between the sisters. Because Karen learned American Sign Language (ASL) and doesn’t speak Spanish, Lina became the family interpreter.

Lina marveled at Karen’s growth and it wasn’t long before Karen told Lina that she was not going to get the Cochlear Implant. Lina had to explain to her family that Karen wanted to embrace being deaf. The implant would remove her from a culture she was now immersed in and didn’t want to leave. Lina was again able to bridge two cultures and help her family accept Karen’s decision, ultimately pushing Lina in a new direction.

While remaining at CHA as a Spanish Language Medical Interpreter, Lina is also pursuing becoming a certified American Sign Language Interpreter. She hopes to complete her training in the near future so that she can extend her bridge building skills to CHA patients who are deaf and honor her sister’s incredible story.

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CHA Rehabilitation Services

Contributed By: CHA Rehabilitation Services

The leading physical therapy and functional improvement team north of Boston. We help people of all ages return to work, play, and living. Locations in Everett, Malden, and our state-of-the-art center in Somerville’s Assembly Square.