COVID-19: Found in Translation

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Original story posted on: May 29, 2020

Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know a second language. Here at our hospital, we recently had a Hispanic young woman who was COVID-19-positive. She lived with her young son and her extended family. They were a close-knit and loving family whose members were having a difficult time being separated from her. They were also full of hope and faith that she would improve and return home.  

Although a team of healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, and therapists had all tried their best to help her, she ended up on a ventilator and began declining even further. Her family made the difficult decision to change her status to do not resuscitate (DNR). The next day, when the family was to be spoken with regarding her medical condition in more detail, we were told that it was her son’s birthday that day – and could he visit? We had to say no, but we did offer an electronic visit. 

The family all got together, and we were able to connect them. I had the privilege of being the one to arrange it so they could visit her. I also had the privilege of listening to their outpouring of love, respect, and concern they had for her. Her brothers, cousin, and aunts all were on the meeting, speaking in Spanish, letting her know how much she meant to them. What a wonderful niece, cousin, and sister she was. Then, at the closing, her young son came on to speak with her about how much he loved his mother and to thank her for all she had done for him during her life to care for him, guide him, and love him. 

It was his birthday, and he had to say goodbye to his mother, who gave him life and had nurtured him and brought him up to be a fine young man. The young woman passed away two days later. I take solace that at least her son and family got to tell her how much she was loved and how much she meant to all of them. But no child should have to say goodbye to his mother on his birthday. It was an honor to be a part of that family for a little while, and I will hold that experience with me always.

Ellen Parucka Walker LCSW ACSW

Ellen Parucka Walker LCSW ACSW is a licensed clinical social worker and the social work manager at West Suburban Medical Center. She has been in hospital social work for 30 years.  She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Case Managers Society of America. 

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