Monday, March 23, 2009

A Case of Mistaken Identity

I've been meaning (and forgetting) to post about the case of an interpreter's mistaken identity for several days, but as is apparent in this blog, my memory is not ginkgo enhanced.

In my second post on this blog I mentioned Emily, my interpreter for my cochlear implant surgery. Emily worked as a substitute interpreter (temporary hire from an agency) on occasion when our deaf education program's regular interpreters were out for the day. I mentioned how she was there before (she was) and after surgery (she wasn't). I also mentioned in that blog post the picture we had made together.... no, I've not uploaded any pictures from that day yet to my computer (I really wasn't looking so hot, so no rush to share with the world yet), and I refuse to upload the video because I look like a cast member from Celebrity Rehab rolling up to the first day of treatment minus the cosmetically enhanced lips and Lincoln Navigator.

So, anyway.... I looked through James' camera at the pictures the other day. I got to the picture of "Emily" and me and had this puzzled expression on my face. Me: uh, who is this? This isn't Emily. James: Well, no, that's your interpreter from when you were in labor. They switched out while you were in surgery. Me: Say what????????? ....and that is how confounded, dazed and confused a little morphine will make a soul. I spent a couple weeks telling this story a few times and thinking all the while my interpreter, Emily, was there for me the whole day. I just have to laugh because I had no clue my interpreter from nearly two years before, when I was in labor, was there again in the recovery room after my cochlear implant surgery. Even though I had video talking with her and a picture sitting with her posing before we left the hospital, I had no idea. I remember seeing the picture with "Emily" after surgery and initially thinking that she looked a lot different than I remembered but shrugged it off since I was on serious pain meds and still feeling the after effects of all the morphine I'd had that day.

Let me back up.... When I was in labor in May 2007, I had 3 interpreters there all day that came in shifts. The first two seemed kind of at loss with an oral deaf chick who could hold her own most of the time. I have to force myself to look at interpreters sometimes when I'm in a situation that I can handle orally because I feel really bad about somebody being hired for my benefit and then not using them. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can handle a situation through speechreading (and patient staff members who will take the time to enunciate clearly without overdoing it), or if I need pull out the stops with all of the above and sign language too, until I'm actually in the situation. Plus, any time I'm in severe pain or just doped up (in a legal manner of course) I really need an interpreter there.

My water broke around 4am that morning, and that evening, many hours later, when my third interpreter showed up I was having a rough time. It only got rougher that evening when my young and seemingly inexperienced nurse decided to turn off my epidural ENTIRELY (when I was 10cm...grr...) without discussing it with James or me so I could FEEL my contractions more because SHE decided I wasn't pushing hard enough.... *boo*hiss* WHO DOES THAT??????? Yow!!! It took TWO hours for the anesthiologist to get back to my room and turn it on, and he was ticked with her to say the least and had no qualms with giving her what-for in front of my family and me. Normally I would have been appalled, but this is one of those times when I think the chewing out was warranted. Plus, there was a full moon out that night so the hospital maternity section was bombarded, and my anesthiologist barely had time to come back. (Anyone doubting this full moon theory should do some research. I kidded with my doctor about the theory that more women give birth during the full moon, and he said it was true as did the hospital staff that was running frazzled that night.) Meanwhile, I was the screaming banshee you will often see on tv or in the movies yelling at my husband, "IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU'LL DO SOMETHING NOW! OOOOOOOOOOWWW!! PLEEEASE HELP ME!!" I stopped short at telling him it was all his fault because that line has been overused for years on tv ...and yes, I was also the chick that showed up originally declining the epidural so I could go natural. I made it through 4 cm and a round of Demerol before I gave in to the epi! *giggle*snort* (To my credit though, I was given Pitocin to get labor going and artificially enhanced contractions aren't exactly a walk in the park, even though Jessica Alba will say contractions are only like bad cramps... for real, Jessica???)

The final interpreter that came in for labor was an angel in disguise. She was just what the doctor should have ordered and lucky me, she came when I needed her most. She was really sweet, and she had four kids herself so she felt very at home interpreting in that environment. At some point though she went from interpreter to interpreter-slash-coach. That will almost never happen with an interpreter from an agency as most are so by the book and all about straight interpreting, but I got to the point that I was almost out of my mind and ready to throw in the towel or jump out of the window (and I would have if I were on the first floor! :-) My pain, when that nurse turned off the epi, was out of this world! I want to howl just thinking about that night sometimes. So my new "coach" would hold my knees and sign counting to ten to help me with the breathing exercises. She was so calm and so positive and really helped center me. Finally after many hours of pushing... I think it was about 8 hours of actively pushing... (I'm stubborn like that... I didn't want to have a c-section!) we were coming up to 24 hours after my water broke. Aidan just wasn't going anywhere no matter how hard I pushed and I had had been fully dilated and effaced at 10 cm.... It was a lost cause. I was completely exhausted and was in tears I couldn't get him out without surgery. I can't even begin to imagine how many women have been in that situation before modern medicine was equipped to intervene.

My interpreter was so supportive and walked beside me to the surgery room door to interpret any last minute details. Fortunately, James was scrubbed and by my side quickly in the operating room. Almost 24 hours to the minute after my water broke, Aidan was with us. I should add that when he came out the room was eerily silent. I could only see James' face and for a second he looked scared to death, until he remembered I was watching his face. We were both holding our breath, and I knew the doctors were working on Aidan..... and then I heard it, his voice screaming.... the most beautiful sound I had ever ever and I do mean EVER heard in my life. James brought him to me, and oh, wow, he was breath-taking. We couldn't believe we made such a gorgeous baby, and we knew we were blessed. After the staff weighed Aidan, James looked at me astounded and repeated "nine pounds and two ounces". Our doctor had just told us two days before that he weighed 7 pounds and change, but since he was 11 days late and I was looking more and more like a Goodyear blimp, I didn't really believe him. So here was our kiddo, absolutely gorgeous with a giant conehead from where his big head was stuck at the birth canal entrance. It didn't matter how he showed up or how pointy his head was, we were just glad he was finally here.

Once Aidan was cleaned up, he went with his daddy and nurse to the nursery. My interpreter was still there! She didn't want to leave without seeing Aidan once, the little guy that she did her part to make his arrival in the world a little smoother than it would have been without her, even though she had probably been off duty for at least an hour. At this point it was probably pushing 6am, and she'd been there since early the evening before. What a trooper and great interpreter/coach she'd been for us. Here's the thing.... I was so drugged, I couldn't remember her name a week later. It has bothered me ever since. Then here were are twenty two months later, and once again, she's there to fill in the gaps, and I think she's Emily! James feels bad that he can't recall her name either. *sigh* Maybe one day I'll see her when I am actually sober for a change. I'll have to admit I can't remember her name, but at least I can refer her to this post so she'll know that I don't need ginkgo to appreciate what she has done for me!


  1. I never would have thought to have an interpreter during labor! It would be so hard to concentrate on someone signing while I was in pain. :-)

    Hi...I'm a new follower btw.

  2. Totally cool... I love new followers!!! Not sure where I'm going though. *and they bang the gong and pull me off the stage* :)

    15 years ago I would've said exactly the same thing about having an interpreter in a stressful situation, but working with interpreters, having two close deaf girlfriends, and daily interpreting via the VP helped tremendously with my receptive skills.

  3. Maybe she'll miraculously come across this post and y'all will be reconnected! :P If she's ever been through any kind of surgery before, I'm sure she completely understands just how out of it one is. :)

  4. Thanks, girlfriend! Maybe you are right... Maybe she'll be the one there for my mapping next week?? They probably have a contract with her agency. She's really nice... I'm sure she'd get a laugh out of it.