The Linguist’s Story

Every month, we get to know a bit more about one of our linguists. This month, meet Sarah Meeks, who is a British Sign Language interpreter.

Sarah, tell us about the work you do for TLS. 


“I work as a British Sign Language interpreter so I attend meetings/medical appointments, do stage work at events etc and a bit of performance interpreting too.”


What’s been your favourite project at TLS? 


“My favourite booking was when a Deaf mother went into labour and a team of interpreters from TLS were on call for a week to see her through labour and delivery. Even though it was very hard work staying awake all night through the labour, being part of someone’s magical journey of childbirth was an absolute honour. I’d like to say she named the baby after me but… haha!”


What has been your biggest challenge?


“It’s always very hard when you have to interpret bad news. I do a lot of medical and I remember being in an ultrasound once with deaf parents who were told their baby had a hole in the brain and was not expected to live. That was heart wrenching and emotional but you have to be professional and deliver the message in the way the doctor intended, but always with empathy.”


Can you tell us about a time your work has made a difference to someone’s life? 


“I remember another medical booking with a man who was taking too many vitamin tablets and his potassium was so high they needed to drain his blood and give him daily blood transfusions immediately. It was very scary having to make sure I was interpreting correctly and to ensure that the Deaf person was understanding what the doctor was saying. I had built up a good relationship with the patient and although he was not a native BSL user and English was his third language, I was able to explain the complexity of the problem to him using visual vernacular. I asked him to relate it back to me so that I was assured that he fully understood. It was a shock to both of us that his life was in danger – the appointment had been a seemingly innocuous blood test but that appointment literally saved his life and he was so grateful to me for helping him understand everything. Often Deaf patients go to appointments and it’s 50/50 whether an interpreter will be there. There is a big shortage of interpreters at the moment especially for face to face bookings so I was really proud that my work that day helped to save his life.”


Tell us something interesting about you. 


“I play women’s baseball and was one of the first players to train with Great Britain before having my children. I have travelled the world and I used to be a DJ!”


What are your ambitions for the next 12 months? 


“To get back into baseball when my 18 month daughter finally sleeps through the night, and to buy land and build my own home.”


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