• “Chaim? We need an interpreter. It’s an emergency”. At 6:30 pm, Chaim Malka, Coordinator of the The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Person in Israel’s Sela Support Center, received an urgent phone call. A kidney donor had been found for a Deaf man – but the hospital could not proceed with the transplant unless an Israeli Sign Language interpreter could be found immediately. Without an interpreter they would be unable to communicate with him and without communication – the opportunity to save his life would be lost.

    Normally, a week’s notice is required to find an interpreter. In this case, Chaim worked wonders – he managed to find an appropriate, available, local interpreter who could do the job and she too sprang into action. She went immediately to meet with the Deaf man and accompanied him in the ambulance from the city he lives in to the hospital in another city. From 8:00 pm until 2:00 am she stayed by his side, enabling him to receive all the information about the transplant and the risks involved, to answer his questions and concerns which ultimately allowed the operation to take place. Later that morning she was back – from 7:00 am to noon continuing to interpret for him and for his deaf wife as well.

    For this Deaf man, who had waited over two years for an appropriate kidney to be available, this service meant the difference, literally, between life and death. His situation had deteriorated to a critical point, and the transplant, which was successful, came just in time.

    Events like this are just one facet of the institute’s government awarded mission to provide support services for all Deaf and hard of hearing Israelis.  Services facilitated include Israeli Sign Language interpreting, computer assisted note-taking and reimbursement for the purchase of vital equipment. Practically speaking, this means that all Deaf or hard of hearing Israelis who need (and are entitled to) interpreters for any purpose, contact Chaim and he matches them up with an interpreter. The volume of requests is staggering – in 2009 there were over seven thousand requests. Interestingly, about a third of these interpreting assignments met needs in the field of access to health care. From 2008 to 2009 there was a 40% increase in the number of interpretations. There was also an increase in the number of requests for equipment.

    * A capital D for Deaf indicates that the man is culturally Deaf and is a sign language user.

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    1. Posted on February 7th

      Excellent article! Just think about other deaf people in this world where they do not offer communication access in this field of health! Many times, it could mean death. Really sad. Hope that through this article, there will be increase in awareness of this great need so that unnecessary deaths or sufferings can be avoided.

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