SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Wittenberg Police Officer David Hill recently helped speed medical treatment to a critically ill child. He did it not with his cruiser, but with his voice.
The multi-lingual Hill is well known to law enforcement agencies for his fluency in both Spanish and Italian. In a dire emergency, the medical community has been able to put Hill's language skills to work.
The two-year-old boy was seriously ill, having great difficulty breathing due to acute pneumonia. Local hospital officials needed permission to fly the child to a pediatric intensive care facility via helicopter, but the parents spoke no English.
The call went out for Officer Hill. Care Flight was on its way to Springfield, and the hospital's usual contract interpreter was nearly an hour away. Hill was on the scene in minutes to explain the situation to the parents and get their permission to treat the child. The little patient was soon airborne.
Hill estimates he is called on for his linguistic skill about twice a month, for both medical and law enforcement reasons. This call was particularly gripping because the distressed child brought back memories of his military experience in Mogadishu, Somalia.
His 14-year military career made him a Gulf War veteran and also a participant in the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in that African nation. There he and his team had to feed Somali children in their trucks, under armed guard, to prevent adults from beating them to steal their food. The father of five said the experience came rushing back when explaining to the Hispanic couple why their son needed to go on the air ambulance.
Hill was born in Italy of an Italian mother and a U.S. serviceman father. He came to America for good in 1977, when he began studying Spanish in high school.
He said he has needed his Italian skills on the job only once, when an Italian couple was driving to California to visit family when one of them suffered an injury.
He keeps his language skills sharp by reading Italian newspapers online, and by watching Italian television and Hollywood movies dubbed in Spanish via his satellite dish. Thus far, however, only his soccer loving son has taken any interest in spending time with him, watching games around the world, as he absorbs his regular language "drills."
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