Yesterday, I interpreted a call that brought tears to my eyes. Literally.
The call was from a medical organization. They make regular calls to patients who are elderly and homebound to check up on how they are doing. The nurse who was calling (a young African American man named Dennis, with an amazingly caring and gentle voice) is someone for whom I have translated before.
I cannot go into the details of the call, but the situation for the elderly couple with whom we were speaking was dire. The lady of the house had been neglecting her own considerable health concerns in order to care for her husband who had undergone radiation therapy. They were ancient.
I am usually able to disconnect from the content of a call. I am actually taking a call right now (application for a bank loan) while I write this, to give you an example of my capacity to disconnect.
For some reason I could not just be a voice in this call. I didn’t add to, or take from the information on this call (forbidden,) but the emotive content sucked me in. The situation with the elderly couple, the caring and gentle nature of the nurse on the phone. It just pushed me over the edge.
I was able to keep my cool until the end of the call, and then I just started crying. Dennis was still on the phone and obviously heard. He asked me if I was ok, and was there anything he could for me.
When I regained my composure, I asked him, “How do you find the strength to hear that kind of thing all day, everyday?” He didn’t laugh, he didn’t patronize. He told me that it is hard, very hard sometimes, to remain objective and composed. Nurses and doctors receive special training and often counseling to deal with the very emotional impact of their jobs.
He talked to me for fifteen minutes, and at the end, he told me, “Today, you and I called some people who needed some help and we gave them some help. You don’t know those people, but you have affected their lives in a positive way. You need to take that with you to bed tonight and let it hold you.”
What a beautiful person Dennis is. Truly beautiful.
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