That could have been me…

If you have followed my blog, you may know that I have worked in the medical field as an interpreter for many years. My job as an interpreter is very specific and I have to follow certain guidelines in order to keep interpreting. I am to follow strict HIPAA laws which include not giving any type of advice to the patient, not even if it could save their life, as well as not obtaining any type of personal contact information except when needed for the particular appointment and I’m not authorized to follow up with the doctor to find out “what happened” with the patient. My job is to go, provide interpreting services and go home. That’s it. Anything else I do, I could be found in subordination and could lose my job. It’s important that I disclose this at the beginning of my blog post so you can see why it is that in certain situations, I’m left with a sense of helplessness for not being able to do more.

I accepted a job for a particular agency not too long ago. I drove a few hours to get to the appointment. I hardly ever accept assignments but for some reason, felt inclined to say “yes” to this one.  I had been told that the appointment would take several hours and I was okay with that. The assignment was related to a patient needing a kidney transplant and the purpose of the appointment was to explain the procedure, where the donors come from, how the insurance works, etc., as well as having the option of being placed on a waiting list OR having your own donor which would expedite the waiting time.

At one point during the appointment, we were walked into a small room where we were to wait for the next member of the medical staff to come in and talk to the patient. We sat there, and having nothing better to do, the patient told me that the kidney failure in the patient’s case had been caused by type 2 diabetes. The patient had been told by the family doctor to “take care of yourself, lose weight, or you’ll end up with full onset type 2 diabetes, because it runs in your family.” The patient turned to me and said “look at me now, I need a kidney transplant, and my doctors are telling me that my diabetes is extremely advanced.” I said nothing… I couldn’t. This is one of those times when I would have loved to offer some words of comfort, say “everything is going to workout.” But, it was not “my job” to do that. All I could do was sit there and listen. To make matters worse, the patient was told by the doctor that due to being overweight, the patient’s job now is to lose weight… “you have 1 year to lose weight or you’ll be taken off the waiting list.” However, no guidance on how to lose that weight was offered. Before leaving, all I could tell the patient was “make sure you talk to your doctor and ask him to send you to a nutritionist or someone who can give you the tools you need to lose weight.” Just like that, my assignment was over and I headed back home with a heavy heart.

The patient’s story and mine were very similar. I too had been told by my doctor after having my daughter “you need to take care of yourself and not gain weight or you could end up with diabetes.” I think that the most common misconception about diabetes is that if “it’s type 2 you don’t need insulin and it’s not so bad.” I have been asked many times by people when talking about diabetes “is it the one that requires insulin, or the other one?” Both types may require insulin.. it’s not the “type” of diabetes, it’s how high your sugar levels are. There are a number of complications related to both types of diabetes:  kidney and liver failure, stroke, heart disease and even blindness. In the United States, diabetes (both type 1 and 2) is the leading cause of blindness. (Source:

Many think that the cost of eating healthy and exercising is high, but I say that the cost to our health and well-being of not eating healthy and exercising is even higher, not only do our medical bills increase tremendously, but our lifespan is shortened and our families are affected. Yes, it takes time to get results… but it’s not about just losing weight, it’s about being healthy. That should be our priority, ALWAYS.

I rarely stop to think “that could have been me” but this particular assignment was a scary reminder.