Pfc. Dal Sum, an infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, answered the call when The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center needed a Burmese translator who speaks Zomi to communicate with a pregnant COVID-19 patient.
This was the 19-year-old Sum’s first mission with the Ohio National Guard, providing operational support to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for its Franklin Medical Center inmates being treated at Wexner.
“The nurses called on me, and I went down and translated for the lady (not an inmate) who was in the intensive care unit for COVID-19,” Sum said. “Zomi is my first language, and I was very shocked to see that the lady was a close friend of my mom’s.”
Sum recognized her when they began talking even though “she was in so much pain that her facial expressions had changed,” he said.
It was good timing that Sum was there because nurses needed approval from the patient’s husband to perform a caesarean section. “I was able to talk to her husband on FaceTime,” Sum said.
As serendipitous as it might seem that in a city of nearly a million people that two members of the same Burmese-American community just happened to be in the same hospital at a critical point in the emergency, it’s also perhaps illustrative of the fact that National Guard members come from the communities they live in to serve. They are coworkers, family, friends and neighbors.
Columbus, after all, does have the nickname of “The Biggest Small Town in America.”
“We go to the same church, and I have friends who are their cousins,” Sum said. “We have a little Zomi community here in Columbus. We live very close to each other. We very much have a family kind of relationship together.”
The Zomi culture and language is spread out among people living in the contiguous regions of northeast India, northwest Myanmar (formerly Burma) and eastern Bangladesh.
Sum said he is grateful that he joined the Ohio National Guard and is proud to serve his local community. He is happy to have helped his family friend, who had a successful surgery to deliver her newborn child and subsequently recovered from COVID-19.
“I feel very blessed, and I think God is trying to show me something,” Sum said.
For Sum, the National Guard belongs in its communities during an emergency, and it doesn’t feel strange to him at all, he said.
Providing operational support to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for inmates being treated at Wexner “is important, and that’s why we (had) some of the best” there, said Col. Matthew Woodruff, commander of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Task Force 37, the command element overseeing all Ohio National Guard personnel providing support during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a requirement that we help our state and local communities, (but Sum went) above and beyond what was asked and required. We’re here to help, whether that’s guarding or being part of that linkage to the community.”