Life or Death-Communication is the Key to Success


What is the worst that can happen when you go on holiday?
Flight delays?  
Sun stroke?
Being hospitalised?

Or, what about being hospitalised when no-one speaks English and you cannot communicate?

What about being hospitalised, on-one speaks English, you are epileptic and they are trying to take your tablets off you and you cannot communicate?

A frightening experience that could literally be a matter of life or death.

Last weekend, Sharon Stephens was at home with her family. She is MD of Planet Veritas, a leading translation company in the UK, and a fluent Spanish speaker and a lecturer in translation. Every day she and her company produce sophisticated translations for companies all over the world, ranging from producing work for Star Wars to building up small companies so they become internationally recognised brands.

However, last week she received a message via Facebook from a friend whose sister was in hospital in Ibiza and in distress. You would think she was in a third world country as no-one spoke English; no-one could understand her and she was desperately trying to tell the nurses that she suffered from epilepsy and couldn’t stop taking her regular, prescribed medication.  The hospital staff was trying to give her different medication which could have had disastrous results.

As anyone knows, being in hospital can be traumatising enough, let alone being in a foreign country and unwell and unable to communicate! The amazing fact though was that this was Ibiza, a place you wouldn’t expect to be faced with language barriers!

The patient’s family were desperately trying to get over to be with her, but flights were few and far between because it was August; the peak of the holiday season. The patient was getting more distraught by the minute.

Sharon’s translation company provides a telephone interpreting service 24/7, 365 in over 157 languages and she knew that that would solve the communication issue straight away but wanted to go that extra mile so the family would have peace of mind and that the patient would be reassured personally by Sharon. At that point no doctor had been around, the nurses were getting agitated and impatient and the situation was getting out of control to say the least.

Sharon called the patient as soon as she could, spoke to the nurse and managed to explain everything. Within minutes a doctor had arrived, they changed her medication, the patient relaxed, responded to the medication and was discharged within hours. The patient was given access to the telephone interpreting service and also had direct contact with Sharon, even though one call was enough to sort the mess out.

The difference in one call reversed the problem entirely. The nurses paid more attention, the doctor came to the rescue and actually spoke English to her. They understood what was going on and could resolve the situation easily. This proves that communication is key, whether it is a business trying to sell their services overseas or a patient in hospital needing the correct treatment, it literally can be a matter of life or death; success or failure.

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