The journey that led Abdi to become a health care interpreter in Oregon is an inspiring one. Abdi grew up in Somalia, and for most of his youth helped his father at a family owned clothing store. Desiring to start a business of his own, at age nineteen Abdi moved to a village in South Africa. By the time he was twenty one, Abdi owned a local grocery store with three employees under his command.
One day, as Abdi and a friend were out back of the store, three gunmen charged in and demanded money from the cashier. A quarrel ensured, and a shot was fired (with no one hit). Upon hearing the gunshot, Abdi and his friend rushed into the store, his friend leading the way. Thinking that the approaching footsteps were a threat, one gunmen discharged a bullet that struck Abdi’s friend in the head. That same bullet exited his friend and entered Abdi’s side, driving right to his spine.
“I don’t remember feeling any pain in that moment,” Abdi recalls. He collapsed to the ground, while the gunmen ran away. Abdi’s friend died instantly, and Abdi himself suffered paralysis immediately from his mid chest down. Despite a surgery and long recovery, he never regained any feeling in his lower torso or legs.
Abdi adjusted to life as a paraplegic, using a wheelchair to move and taking medication to keep his digestion system running. A few years later, Abdi and his younger brother were able to resettle to Oregon. When he first moved to the Pacific Northwest, his English was intermediate, and he used an interpreter at medical appointments. But Abdi was surprised when it came to spine related medical terminology, he knew better the English words better than his Somali interpreter!
Determined to help others, Abdi improved his English and started to work as an interpreter for Somali and Maay (a local Somali dialect). Abdi attended the OHCIA’s Spring 2015 Health Care Interpreter Training, which greatly boosted his medical terminology and knowledge of ethics. He strongly believes in quality interpreting (especially given his past experiences), and he plans to become Oregon state qualified in Somali. In addition to serving the community through interpreting, Abdi studies Business at Portland State University, and he is hoping to start a foundation to support disabled people in Somalia.