Month: May 2013

My Arm Hurts

I suppose it comes as no surprise since it was less than a month ago that I fell down a flight of stairs, dislocating my shoulder and breaking the humerus into several pieces just below the ball that fits into the shoulder.  Among other joys, my tendons are no longer anchored and snap around like kite string. On a good day my upper arm hurts and on a less than good day it hurts a great deal. Today is one of those ice-pick in the shoulder days.  I need to find the Tylenol.  I refuse to take more opiates.  There are worse things than being in pain.

I realize I am fortunate to be alive, not to have broken my neck, and a host of other terrible options that never materialized.  I have a roof over my head and food in my mouth at my daughter’s home.  She did not have to take me in.  I am blessed that she did.

Now that my arm is no longer swathed to my chest I reflexively try to sign.  Mind you, I don’t have anyone to sign with.  I am live with generally soft-spoken hearing people who don’t sign and are unlikely to start anytime soon.  My daughter used to know how to sign, but doesn’t like signing.  I signed the Serenity Prayer for my OT today, just to have someone to talk with – she doesn’t sign.  I taught her the sign for “God.”

I’ve stopped trying to participate in conversations I can’t understand since I am tired of hearing “never mind.”  I’ve been considering using paper and pen.  I do have to ask for things.  I do not always get what I ask for – they are all busy people with busy lives.  They to their best for me.  I cannot ask for more.

I’ve learned how to do the dishes with one hand – using my right hand to hold a soapy sponge.  No one asked me to.  I want to help earn my keep.  I  found out I can’t scrub pots and pans.  No, there is no dishwasher.

I know eventually I will heal, and also realize ASL is a 3D language and I’m not sure how to do it anymore.  Sometimes the slightest motion sets the tendons and ligaments rolling around the inside of my arm and I stop in mid movement.  Today the Occupational Therapist finally felt them and winced, asking, “Does it hurt?”  I’m not sure “hurt” is the right word.

My daughter is marrying tomorrow and I was invited to practice.  I now know I will understand nothing spoken there.  My FM system is not with me and my good hearing aid does not work anyway.  I  thought about it and decided I will be quiet, attentive, and ask for nothing.  It is her day, not mine.

I am tired.  I took a shower and the attempt to wash my hair was challenging. My arm hurts.  And perhaps also my heart… just a little bit.


What’s it like to be deaf?

First, you know how some people carry an emergency…contraceptive (my grandmother reads this) in their wallet?  Well, MY friend carries an emergency York Peppermint Patty.  Priorities, people, priorities.

That really has nothing to do with my post for today.  What I really want to talk about is the whole, “being deaf/hard-of-hearing” deal. Here’s today’s public service announcement: CONTRARY to popular belief, I do not have selective hearing, I’m NOT making it up, and NOT ALL DEAF PEOPLE have a “funny accent.”

Sure, my friends can still do it like animals (must.bleach.brain.) in their room with paper thin walls while I crash on their couch and no one is embarrassed in the morning.  Sure, if I tell the airline personnel handling boarding I’m deaf, I get to board with the babies and elderly.  Jealous, are you? Don’t be.  There’s a whole other side to this, people.  I bet you’ve never thought…

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When I say I am deaf what does that mean?

My ambulance and hospital experience really pointed out to me that when I say, “I’m deaf” it seems to mean close to nothing to the hearing world.  If I can voice it then I’m exaggerating.

So what do I mean when I say I’m deaf?  I could say Hard of Hearing, but that is even less clear – less descriptive.

Without my hearing aid on (and its been off a LOT recently because I could not get it in my ear) means that I can’t understand 90% of the conversations in my daughter’s home.  Sometimes I don’t even know if someone is talking.  At other times I know they are talking but I can understand nothing of it.

It means that I can’t hear wet shoes squeak on linoleum or the sound of a whistle being tooted on outside.  It means I can’t hear the school bus come, but I can watch the dog and know that the bus is here.  And it means if I am wearing my hearing aid I want to scream at the sound of the squeak of wet shoes and the shrill whistle being blown.  God save me if I have a HA on when you turn a car stereo on and it is full blast.

Without HAs I’m in a world of my own.  I read a lot.  My daughter’s therapy dog is my best clue as to when something is happening.  She makes me long for a hearing ear dog even more.

Being functionally deaf means I don’t understand the words to songs.  I generally don’t recognize voices. I may not hear cars coming and if I don’t pay attention I could be road kill.  It means not hearing rain on a fan in a window so if I know it is going to storm I have to check so the fan doesn’t get wet and short out.

It means that quite often I hear two-thirds of what you just said and my brain is madly plugging the bits and pieces into a framework and filling the gaps to make sense of it all. Its hard work. Please don’t make it harder by looking away when you speak. If I really don’t get what you are saying I may make you spell a word out for me.  I don’t accept, “Never mind.”

Just when you least expect it there will be a lull in the background noise and something said sotto voice will ring true in my ear and I’ll hear it.  How?  I don’t know how.  It just happens.  Its a rarity, but clearly you think I can hear it all the time.

If someone says to you, “I’m deaf” the best thing you can do is inquire:

Do you need an interpreter?

Do you need a pen and paper?

How can I best speak to be understood by you?

Thoughts for the day on life in my quiet life.

On the days when…

On the days when I am not totally bombed out of my mind on painkillers (it happens more than I’d like since there is some interdimentional inquisitor with a big knife pick who regularly attacks my right shoulder – if you see it, please ask it to stop now) I sometimes contemplate a meaningful post.

On the day I was transported to the hospital in an ambulance there was a mantra I voiced over and over.  “I’m deaf.  I can’t hear you.  I’m deaf.  Please look at me when you talk to me.  I’m deaf and I can’t hear you when you stand on my left side.”  One woman walked in and knew how to sign and I was enormously relieved, but I never saw her again.

When, like me, you can voice adequately, “they” assume you hear.  It seemed ever time I saw someone I’d say, “I’m not hearing you.  I’m deaf.  Really.”  One woman said, “Okay, I’ll speak more quietly.”  

I am right-handed dominant signer and my left hand wasn’t up to the task.  

The day I left the hospital I was yet again saying something about being deaf and said, “My daughter is acting as my interpreter.”

“Why do you need an interpreter?”

“Because I can’t hear you!  I’m still deaf.  I got here deaf.  I stayed here deaf.  I’m leaving here deaf.  My daughter has told you over and over again I can’t hear you.”

In a small voice she said, “We have a sign language interpreter on staff.”  

I need a button to wear that says, “I am very hard of hearing.  Please call your ASL interpreter.”  (sigh)

Senate Accepts Deal to Kick Formerly Incarcerated Off Food Benefits

This is outrageous and clearly unconstitutional discrimination against a class of people. People need to eat – period. I’m appalled.

Prison Reform Movement's Weblog- America: Land of the Free, Home of the Incarcerated

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Yesterday, Sen. Vitter of Louisiana offered up an amendment to permanently drop anyone ever convicted of a violent crime from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Democrats in the Senate obliged him. The amendment is for a farm bill, which is currently being debated in the Senate.

Says Greenstein:

The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since. In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.

So, a young man who was convicted of a single…

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When Mental Illness Strikes

Just as no one wakes up in the morning and says, “Gee, I think today is a good day to become an addict,” the same is true about biochemically-based mental illnesses. The fact is that mental illnesses and addiction often run in families and often in tangent – so that the bipolar may also have a drug problem due to attempting to treat the symptoms by using recreational drugs and getting hooked.

I have heard the same thing over and over. “If only he loved me more he’d stop drinking/using” or “If she only took her pills she would not be depressed.” or “He’s just on the pity pot.” Variations on the above from parents, children, and spousal units go on seemingly endlessly.

It might be that an addict or alcoholic can be tough loved to health, but add into the mix a major mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and the picture changes radically.

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away I had a good friend who was a medical professional who had bipolar disorder. This person was religious about seeing the shrink, taking meds, doing talk and group therapy. However, there is something known as “breakthrough” where brain chemicals can shift, sometimes rapidly and radically. One day my friend awoke convinced the CIA was monitoring everything and we got a call that this person had shaved their hair and destroyed all their furniture looking for “bugs.” They didn’t do anything wrong. They could not help what happened.

When we add in a chemical addiction we add in shame and blame to the shame and blame already associated with mental illness. These folks are even more likely to be considered weak-willed. “If only” they did this or that then life would be fine and recovery assured. Except that is not the way it works.

All the psychoactive medication in the world will not fix a breakthrough. A breakthrough may cause someone to stop taking medication. Severe depression may so immobilize someone that they can’t recruit enough internal resources to do what they need to do. It is like the death spiral of a plane in an old WWII dogfight (air warfare) movie.

Tough love does not help someone who is immobilized emotionally due to mental illness. Holding their feet to the fire may cause them to withdraw further. It is perplexing for individuals in the drug treatment field since they’re used to confronting a person on their dysfunctional behavior. It is often more than perplexing to 12 step members who are trying to cure one problem and potentially exacerbating another.

One must first dry a person out from whatever drug of choice they have before treating the mental illness, but there is no magic bullet. And therein lies the problem.

It does not mean that no one with a dual diagnosis ever recovers. They do. But it is a far more difficult recovery. It takes far more group support from their 12 step group members and an understanding that medications that might be verboten for someone else might be required for a person in DD recover.

If we add to the above issues the issue of being Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and without adequate access to interpreters to assist with the mental health or drug treatment process and it seems an almost insurmountable problem. While much of the 12 step material is fairly easy to understand, if a person has only a 3rd grade reading level much of it is unintelligible.

It is critical that we both insure the adequate education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, but that we also provide adequate resources to assist in mental health and substance abuse treatment. Failure to do so causes individuals to end up on the streets or in jails and prisons when with care, they might be functional members of society.

Itsy Bitsy Spider My Butt!

while recovering from surgery i needed a good, if painful, laugh. this was it.

Grandma Says..


There I was, Kindle in hand, sitting on the commode; when I noticed a slight movement on my left.  Marching towards me was my biggest fear; my source of nightmares and my cause to panic…a slippery, slimy, scurrilous, succubus of a spider.

I froze, afraid to breathe and watched in horror as the arachnoid, that looked to me to be the size of a small dog, headed right for my leg.  My heart started pumping wildly; sweat formed on my brow and my legs started to shake.

I was helpless; the two gallon jug of Home Defense Bug Spray was in the garage; the can of Raid was under the kitchen sink and the fly swatter lived on the lanai. Desperate, I looked around the room and used any weapon I could find. I threw my slipper; the spider laughed ( I swear, I heard it). I threw an empty…

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An Hour In The Life Of A Deaf Blind Man (guest post by the Hobbit)

A thought provoking post

A Deaf In The Family

An Hour In The Life Of A Deafblind Man

I wanted to do something sweet for my wife and stepkids, so I decided that I would get my wife a dozen yellow roses, and a couple of packs of candy valentine hearts for the kids.

I walk to the store, and on the way I realize that I don’t have a notepad and a magic marker with me, but I hope that it won’t be a problem.

I went to the bank near the store to withdraw money from the ATM. Unfortunately it is midday, and the sun is shining too brightly on the outdoor ATM for me to be able to use it.

So I go into the grocery store to see if they have an ATM. I ask one of the cashiers where the ATM machine is. He points me in the direction of the bathrooms, so I…

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When You Know You’ve Made It

Yesterday I was with a friend I met a couple of months ago. He wears hearing aids on both ears (lucky dog). At one point in the day gave me an exuberant hug and said something to me. On my deaf side. Automatically, I said, “I can’t hear you.” Mind you, I knew he said something, I just had no idea what it was. Literally. No. Freaking. Idea. Just throw out four or five random words – “Sassafras ingenious aardvark coffee chemicals” – coulda been it. (shrugs)

So the guy with the two hearing aids pulled away, looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve never been around anyone like you before.” (subtext – You really can’t hear, can you? Answer: Nope, this is as good as it gets, ever. Tomorrow it may be worse.)

Yup, I think I’ve slipped the line from HoH to the near-deaf. Technically, I have a moderate to severe loss in my hearing ear, but it is how this manifests in communication that matters most. If the moderate to severe loss isolates me from human communication, then that’s exactly what Hellen Keller meant when she said that blindness isolates people from things, but hearing loss isolates people from other people.

On the way home yesterday afternoon, as well as this morning I chewed on the differences between two HoH people. Certainly not all HoH are created equally.

We talked about working around noise – he takes out his aids and I’m functionally deaf – period. In loud echoing areas he needs hearing aids and I’m functionally deaf – 90% of the time. I have a hard time with phones, he’s fine with ’em. I hear things wrong easily, especially if the person is not looking right at me when speaking – he does well. I am almost totally uninterested in TV and movies because I don’t understand them well without CCs.  Even with loud volume there is often music or laugh tracks to cover speech. He likes TV and movies because he grew up understanding them. Like most folks, he came to hearing loss later in life. That helps with understanding the hearing world. Yeah, I grew up in a hearing world, but that doesn’t mean I was actually a part of it.

Now, it may be the bilateral hearing thing. His hearing is limited on both sides, but he HAS both sides and I don’t. It may be that I’ve just crossed the line into the “Twilight Zone” where I’m still hearing  stuff, at least, but I’m not understanding what I hear.

This explains why I like ASL so much. I’m often bummed by the fact most people don’t want to learn it, even when it would mean they could communicate more effectively with me. I asked my kid what she’d do when I lost all my hearing and she said, “Text.”  Well, okay, but ASL is so much more meaningful.  Still, text is better than nothing.