On a cold afternoon in January 2015, Yesenia Diosdado, 11, got off a school bus in Lenexa, Kansas, near the apartment building where she lives with her family. When the bus pulled away, Yesenia saw police and emergency workers attending to victims of a three-car accident that had occurred at a busy intersection nearby. Yesenia joined a small crowd of onlookers across the street.
She noticed that an injured woman was trying to communicate with an EMS worker using sign language, but he couldn’t understand her. “I heard him ask for an interpreter,” Yesenia says.
She ran over to the paramedic to help—her mother, a former sign language interpreter, had taught her and her siblings how to sign (no one in the family is hearing impaired).
“She said, ‘I sign. Can I help?’” says EMS captain Chris Winger. “I was floored.”
Yesenia was able to relay to the emergency personnel that the woman’s neck was injured and tell them the name of the local hospital she preferred. “She looked really hurt,” says Yesenia. “I’m proud that I got to do something to help.”
When her mother, Susan Milidore, 36, heard about Yesenia’s heroics, she wasn’t surprised. “It’s in her nature to help,” says Susan. “I was impressed that she recognized the seriousness of the situation and took charge. Most adults wouldn’t have done that.”
A few weeks later, paramedics presented Yesenia with a gold coin and a certificate of appreciation at her elementary school.
“My mom always says that you never know when sign language might come in handy,” says Yesenia. “That day, it did.”