The dementia-stricken Englishman for whom I’d been interpreting Spanish with doctors and caseworkers for more than a year – it seems longer – died unexpectedly yesterday. For the whole story, enter Cullera in the Search box on the right.
I’d come to think of him as a close friend. Probably that’s an effect liaison interpreting has on you if you do it for the same person for a long time. After all, you share the person's thoughts, even if they‘re chaotic. To the end, he still recognised my wife and me even though he couldn‘t remember our names, greeted us warmly and thanked us.
In the course of it, I’ve learnt the rudiments of medical and social services interpreting, but also about dementia (of which Alzheimer’s is just one variety) and what a terrible, exhausting disease it is not just for the victims but also for their families and other care takers. It turns knowledgeable, capable, life-hardened adults back into young children who must be watched over day and night. It nearly killed this man’s wife. For the time being, I’ll still be interpreting for her.
If you get a chance to see it, there’s an inspiring Catalan film about Alzheimer’s. It features Pasqual Maragall, who was Mayor of Barcelona at the time of the Olympic Games there and is now stricken but is determined to fight it for as long as he can with the help of his family.
Bicicleta, cullera, poma. A documentary film by Carles Bosch. Barcelona, 2010. 96 minutes. In Catalan, available with Spanish and English subtitles. English title Bicycle, Spoon, Apple, from the three words a patient is asked to remember in a diagnostic test.