Dani Estrada spoke only in Spanish and was one of nearly 50 Virginia Produce employees that were rushed to Twin County Regional Hospital Tuesday afternoon.
"Well, we were working and it was around 9am. We started feeling bad. We had headaches, we were nauseas. We were feeling sick. We told the boss and he gave us some pills for our headaches," Estrada said.
Standing in the gap between those who couldn't speak English and those who spoke only Spanish, were three people.
Silverio Gonzalez, the only bilingual officer on the Galax police force, was one of them.
Gonzales said there were four people, four translators, including himself, that got the call to help.
"Me personally, I think everything went as well as we could. You know it's hard to prepare for something like that with the amount of people that came in sick you know," Gonzales said.
Nearly 80 workers were sent to four area hospitals. Most were Hispanic women who were rushed to Twin County Regional, which says it was thankful to get a heads up. Agnes Smith is the chief nursing officer for the hospital. On the job only three months, Smith said getting early notice about the language barrier made a big difference.
"The biggest thing looking back, the guys in the field, the EMS team, alerted us that the majority of victims were Hispanic. We got three translators within the facility, so we were able to at the point of entry, speak with those individuals," Smith said.
Estrada, who has been working at Virginia Produce only three months, said she and her co-workers were packing tomatoes when they became sick and were given some type of pills by their boss.
Michel Zajur, Executive Director for the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said more businesses need bilingual employees for all kinds of reasons.
"I think there's a great need for more translators and for more businesses that are adequately staffed with people that are bilingual," Zajur said.
Three female workers were taken to Duke Medical Center in North Carolina. I'm told they're in good condition. Virginia Produce remains closed until investigators figure out why those workers became so sick, so fast.
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