Going to the hospital for a procedure or to the doctor for lab results might produce anxiety for some, but if you factor in the inability to speak English, the anxiety level ratchets up exponentially.
Enter Yolanda Mumford, Spanish translator for St. Joseph Hospital in Breese.
Because Yolanda cares deeply for those who come to the hospital or clinics for treatment, especially those who do not speak English, she plays an integral role in making sure they understand what treatments are recommended.
Yolanda also follows mothers-to-be to pediatric appointments for their newborns.
Medical personnel — doctors, nurses, clinicians — rely on Yolanda to translate their explanations clearly and accurately to their patients. Yolanda always complies.
Registered nurse and diabetes educator, Barbara Voss, describes Yolanda’s gifts this way: “As the Spanish interpreter at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, Yolanda draws from her strong faith every day in showing compassion and understanding of the needs of our Latino community. With her vast medical knowledge, obtained over the past several years, she has become an invaluable member of our healthcare team.
“Patients trust Yolanda because she is of Latino heritage and like family to them. Hospital employees trust and rely on her because she is a member of our hospital family, also. Patient, kind and giving, she is the type of person we all strive to emulate,” Voss said.
Most of the time the translations do not cause Yolanda emotional distress; sometimes quite the contrary.
However, she remembers one time a “patient came to the emergency room,” she said. “After testing, they found out it was cancer; I had to tell him.”
Distressed not only by the man’s diagnosis but also having to tell him, Yolanda began to cry. It was difficult, but she made sure the man received an accurate, albeit sad, diagnosis.
Several times she has attended to women who miscarried their babies. Again, she made sure the mothers understood what had happened and responded to their pain.
“Every day is a new experience,” she said. “I try to do my best.”
Yolanda prays so that she can do her best for the people who rely on her. She prays: “God, you put me in this situation so just help me deal with this.”
Although her father wanted her to be an accountant as she grew up in the Sinaloa State in Mexico, Yolanda liked being with people, interacting with them and helping them. You can’t do that with numbers, she said.
While she was traveling and studying English, she went to Colorado Springs to study and met her husband, Donald, who was an Air Force Academy graduate. He has developed Huntington’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of cognition, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.
With many difficult decisions to make at home, her work, “even if it is stressful, is a kind of refuge,” she said.
When the family moved to New Baden, Yolanda began to substitute teach. “I was teaching English,” she said and then saw an advertisement for an interpreter at St. Joseph Hospital in Breese and she has become an integral part of the staff there.
“We wish Yolanda could be in more than one place at a time,” Voss said.
Dr. Bonnie Gelly of Southern Obstetrics and Gynecologic Associates said: “I’ve personally witnessed her literally run from appointment to appointment so that our patients do not have to wait very long for her; she is available 24 hours daily and has spent countless hours in office rooms, waiting rooms, operating rooms, emergency rooms, and even labor and delivery rooms.”
In short, everyone is important to Yolanda whether it is the doctor, the patient or the relative that visits.
“Yolanda treats each and every person she meets with dignity,” Voss said.
Each day holds promise for Yolanda who looks at life as an opportunity to serve.
Sue Darr, RN, case management and codirector of Mission Integration at St. Joseph, saw how Yolanda’s assistance proves invaluable.
“Mexican Americans are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes and have higher rates of end-stage renal disease caused by diabetes, leading to 50 percent more deaths,” Darr said.
Because Clinton County has had an influx of Hispanic Americans over the last 10 years, the hospital has increased its screening for kidney diseases with help from the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.
During a screening in Damiansville, “Carlos” who was not yet 18 wanted to be tested because diabetes was prevalent in his family. Yolanda and the hospital staff lobbied for Carlos to the Kidney Foundation to allow him to be tested with his mother’s permission.
The end result was a positive finding of diabetes. He was “only one of many” Yolanda has assisted, Darr said.
Yolanda and her husband, Donald, have three children: Alexander, 16, Anissa, 14 and Justin, 12. They are parishioners at St. George Parish in New Baden.
“For Yolanda Mumford, the ‘marketplace’ where she lives her faith is her family, St. George Parish, St. Joseph Hospital and the Hispanic Community of Clinton County,” her pastor, Father Gene Neff said. “As she lives her faith journey, this woman truly does so with compassion, peace, understanding, generosity and gentleness.”