Acela was a friendly older woman referred to us by Esperanza Health Clinic, a local clinic in Little Village that provides quality bilingual, bicultural medical services to the community. When she arrived at Taller de Jose, she already knew where to go. “Cook County,” she said, “Last time they wouldn’t see me.” It was my first time at Stroger Cook County Hospital, and she led the way to the clinic she needed. Once again, they wouldn’t see her. This time, I could explain why. “We have to go to another clinic first. Then you’re allowed to come here.” Off we went, to a clinic already crowded with fifty other waiting patients.
Waiting, though it often seems fruitless and frustrating, is an essential part of accompaniment. Spending two and a half hours in a crowded clinic, alert for the sound of her name, Acela began to open up about herself and her family. She also began to describe in detail the physical pain that she was currently experiencing, the cause of which several doctors had yet to determine. Her stamina impressed me; she could no longer work, but she was still helping to care for her three young grandchildren. She showed great dedication to her family, and was really hoping that this doctor would finally have the answers.
When we finally made it in to the doctor, he suggested that she see a different type of specialist instead. He thought she needed medicine and tests that were not part of his department. I translated for Acela and she was clearly upset, and very much in pain. The process of accompaniment, unlike a normal interpretation service, allows me to better understand the situation and emotions of the people we serve. I knew Acela had dedicated a lot of time and energy into figuring out what was wrong with little to show for it. I asked the doctor, a young resident, if he could order the tests and prescription himself, even though he was not an expert in that field of medicine. I explained that she was in pain and needed assistance as soon as possible. He checked with his supervisor and then wrote out a prescription and referrals for necessary lab work.
Almost six hours after arriving, Acela left the hospital with medicine to help her aching muscles and back, feeling more confident that soon she would know what was causing her pain. She was ready to go back to Esperanza Health Clinic and move forward with her doctor there. Our services help to complement the vital services that they provide to the community, and together we continue to help Acela on her path to wellbeing.