Interpreter Livia Cais Plays Central Role in our Training in Brazil

Professional and sought-after interpreter Livia Cais has been a volunteer interpreter for Children’s HeartLink in Brazil since 2008. She is equally at home interpreting in the operating room and ICU as for a crowd at a full stadium, for events as diverse as World Cup Soccer matches and large gatherings with motivational speakers. Her simultaneous interpretation of English and Brazilian Portuguese make it possible for us to conduct training on location in Brazil and also to continue remote training since the pandemic, together with our medical volunteers from Mayo Clinic and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Livia interpreting for a full-team training visit in Brazil.


When and why did you decide to become an interpreter?

Livia: I became a professional interpreter over 20 years ago. I started out as a translator, working with the written language. When I had the opportunity to first work as an interpreter, I fell in love with it. I decided that I wanted to become the best interpreter I could be and help facilitate spoken communication among different people from different countries. I truly enjoy the opportunity to dive into unknown worlds and learn something new and different every day!

Tell us about your work with Children’s HeartLink.

Livia: I was introduced to Children’s HeartLink when it began partnering with Hospital de Base Medical School in Sao Jose do Rio Preto. Interpreting for Children’s HeartLink makes me feel useful. I can help teams of medical professionals who speak different languages communicate with each other and also help them communicate with patients and family members. I love witnessing the progress that is made toward helping children with congenital heart disease and also seeing the families’ burdens relieved. I always learn a lot and that is also motivating.

How has your work changed now that there is no in-person training?

Livia: To begin with, I like challenges. When the pandemic first started, I had been using remote simultaneous interpreting for webinars and company meetings and interviews. The number of online platforms that allow simultaneous interpreting has grown exponentially since the pandemic began. I try to stay informed about these platforms so I can suggest the best solutions to my clients.

Do you have any special memories from your years in this line of work? 

Livia: There are so many special moments to remember. The surgeries performed by Brazilian surgeons working alongside American surgeons, with scrub nurses, intensivists, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists and others on the team–and the underlying feeling of responsibility we all shared toward the patient to be operated on. In the beginning of the partnership, after witnessing the number of hours a surgery could take and how long the surgeons had to stand, without any water to drink or time to take a bio break, I asked if they ever end up with kidney problems and learned that yes, they often do develop kidney stones.

There are humorous moments, as well. I remember interpreting for the Brazilian football team during their press interviews in the World Cup in Russia. Out of the blue, one of the reporters in the audience suddenly switched from English to Japanese. The puzzled Brazilian player who was listening to the translation repeated out loud what we were all thinking: “I am sorry. I cannot translate what he is saying because I don’t speak  Japanese.” When you speak more than one language fluently, it can get confusing and hard to remember which language you are speaking!

Another special moment took place a few years ago, when I was interpreting for Tony Robbins in a 15,000-seat stadium in the US. He is a motivational speaker who talks quickly about complex ideas and concepts, in front of thousands of people in search of personal growth and connection. Inside the sound booth, a team of four interpreters who took turns interpreting were dedicated to getting his message right. There was a moment when the auditorium light was deliberately dimmed and I was concentrating hard on Tony’s fast and challenging speech, trying to replicate his voice, his intensity, his emotion and his message in the most authentic way possible. Suddenly I saw two hands pressing hard against the window of the booth. It was an ecstatic participant who was moved by the message he was receiving from Tony, through my simultaneous interpreting. Human connection, the ultimate gift of life, was established, and I felt so happy and fulfilled. Unpretentious moments of connection like this make me thank the universe for the generous opportunities that are presented each day.

Children’s HeartLink saves children’s lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world. Founded in 1969, we currently support 18 partner hospitals in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. In 2019 alone, the medical providers we trained served 177,000 children with heart disease, more than ever before.