La Crosse health language interpreters bring clarity to patients

'There’s a lot of power in understanding': Health interpreters help people understand complicated medical information in their language.
Health Interpreter

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Medical information is complicated and changes often. Important information from medical experts changes as often as day turns into night.

“Can you imagine that also being then in another language?” said Colleen Cudo, language services supervisor at Mayo Clinic Health System.

You’ll remember Cudo. She’s the one you would see using sign language for La Crosse County Health Department COVID-19 updates so people who can’t hear understand too.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Cudo said. “It’s my honor.”

La Crosse’s more than 3,000 Hmong families rely on people like Mayo Clinic Health System’s Xue Xiong.

“It’s just a passion of helping someone who is limited to English,” Xue Xiong said.

Gundersen Health System’s Blia Xiong loves the work she performs and takes pride in how she delivers information.

“It’s my job to make the statement or the sentence really clear,” Blia Xiong said.

These ladies offer clarity to visits people tolerate but don’t necessarily enjoy.

“I don’t know if they love seeing me there, but I love seeing them,” Xue Xiong said.

The information they interpret protects people so they take their medicine correctly.

“If you don’t take them right, what are the consequences to that?” Cudo said.

We all know how good it feels when the light bulb inside our head turns on.

“That feeling inside you of, ‘Yes! They got it!’” Cudo said. “There’s a lot of power in understanding.”

A foundation of trust is built by a group of people who deliver messages their patients recognize.

“Having that trust is big. Our job is amazing,” Cudo said. “We have a great job.”

Blia Xiong celebrates 30 years as an interpreter in a couple of weeks. Mayo Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System also offer Spanish interpreters and technology that includes hundreds of other languages.