Posted // 2009-02-24 - Tomorrow, Wednesday 25 February, Zion’s Bank executive Sylvia Haro is hoping to testify on House Bill 144 before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She’ll be speaking for the Medical Interpreter’s Act, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D). The bill would promote the volunteer licensing of interpreters at hospitals. Chavez-Houck might be hard-pressed to find someone more appropriate to speak to her bill than Haro. The tragic story of her sister-in-law, Angelina Haro, who died a week ago in Davis Hospital, more than underscores the need for translators at medical facilities.
Angelina Haro, 69, was recovering in Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, after brain surgery. She didn’t speak much English; neither does her retired husband. “We thought she was recuperating well,” Sylvia says.
Angelina’s husband stayed with her day and night. At 5 am on Feb. 17 Angelina had breathing problems. Her husband called the nurses but he could not make himself understood. Like his wife, he’s a U.S. citizen. The nurses needed his authorization to put his wife on life support. But frantic minutes were wasted because no one could translate for him.
Minutes ticked by while hospital staff tried to resolve the situation. Eventually one of them offered him a phone and told him to talk to the translator on the other line, while another nurse picked up a second phone and listened in. All this ate away at yet more time as Angelina took her last breaths. “She was dying in front of his eyes,” Sylvia says.
Finally the nurses got the permission they needed from the husband for life support. They ushered him out of the room. It was too late. Angelina Haro died five minutes later.
When Sylvia Haro talked to nurses the day after Angelina died, she says one of them told her it was too bad “the cleaning people weren’t available to translate.”