Month: December 2013

The Joy of Bunk Beds

When my daughter brought me home to her place, I ended up sharing a room with my 7-year-old grandson.  I’ve got the bottom bunk. Overhead are thick, firm, wooden slats. I don’t believe anyone realized how useful they would be. I’ve been able use them as therapy bars. First I could use my left hand/arm to help whilst my right arm/shoulder was a shattered disaster. Now I’m using them to help lever myself and the knee around. When we do the shoulder again, and when the right foot is eventually fixed I suspect I’ll be appreciating the joys of bunk beds again.

Except for times when I’m bed-ridden (such as for these few days) I am usually here just for a few hours of sleep.  “The boy” (which is the term I use to identify my grandson to the dog) is the one who uses the room during the daylight hours when he is here. “The boy” and I both have hearing deficits, mine are merely catastrophically worse than his (thank heavens). He tends to have a big voice (as do I) so most of the time I can hear him better than most – sometimes way too well.  And “the boy” is also McKinley (Baby Dog’s) favorite rough and tumble playmate. Every dog should have a wonderful boy to roll around the floor with, to play tug of war with, and to romp and play with until totally exhausted. They usually collapse at the same time. Life is good.

The eldest girl is more of a momentary angel gliding through Kinley’s life giving tummy rubs, soft kisses, and tummy rubs. The younger girl is presently doing her imitation of the grinch.  This too will change. Fortunately, in a small home with an amazing number of people here (the VNA personnel were amazed as adults and children popped into existence at the top of the stairs), there is always a kind word and pat for McKinley.  And I never miss knowing someone is at the door here because of McKinley’s “announcing” visitors – although it would be good if she’d announce just a wee bit less.

When You are Unconscious it Doesn’t Matter

Today I had a day surgery. Last night it poured freezing rain and it was still a frozen mess while my son-in-law drove me off to meet my fate. He’s a good driver, BTW.

When we got there I was bemused about the name of the unit.  Surgery Day Care – it has a certain cachet to it, don’t you think?  We have day care for kids and day care for dementia patients – now there is day care for surgery patients. Who knew?

Really, though, it was just plain old Day Surgery.  Maybe the person who designated the name was fond of the sayings of Yoda.  Day care surgery you will have. Healed you will be.

Beings as this was the place I had the bad experience with the other day I was pleased to find out that I had a mixed bag of experiences.  The anesthesiologist (aka the ‘gas passer’) didn’t know sign, but he knew Deaf and HoH and said I could call him by his first name, which was cool. He also was concerned about the ototoxicity of Tylenol and said he’d be careful. He always looked right at me and he had a great voice.

My prep nurse was awesome – again, didn’t sign, but was easy to teach to talk to me rather than around me. The ER nurse was a loss whether he was wearing a mask or not. Fortunately, Andrew (the anesthesiologist) really ran the communication part of the show.

My surgeon forgot about my hearing loss. We do the “I can’t hear you” thing almost every time we meet, but it is not like he’s my primary care, so I tend to be forgiving towards the ortho who is doing his best to put my various body parts back together with toothpicks and glue.  He tries hard and he’s honest with me – which is a huge issue for me. Just tell me how it is and will be.

I went out like a light in seconds – then it is really pretty unimportant what I don’t hear.  They had my knee marked (cut THIS one) so the appropriate knee was incised in various places to fix the tear(s) and get a light in to get a look around. I don’t know how many incisions since the knee is wrapped and then wrapped again in a huge ace wrap.

To add a thrill to the day my daughter could not come get me as planned as one of the kids came down with something closely resembling either flu or food poisoning. I texted one of my best friends to come get me and his car had a flat on the way. Why the dickens he drove on it until it looked like a black rubber Christmas wreath neither of us are quite sure about.  He changed it in the parking lot rather than where he realized he had a flat. Apparently it made sense at the time.

Nonetheless, he and I communicated by text – and when he’s with me he has a fantastic voice so no problems there.  He and my brother have the only voices I can recognize over the phone.

I insisted on walking out of the hospital since the surgeon told me I could.  The nurse and my pal sorta shook their heads and walked with me – yes it hurt, yes I’m glad I did it, and really, at that time I wasn’t using my ear. Walking on my ear would be rather difficult.  Instead, I was limping down a hall looking determined and testing my stability.

Got home to two nurses from VNA (Visiting Nurses Association) who were here to work with my daughter.  Amazingly enough, both of them were totally great for a deaf or HoH person.  My fav had a pocket full of homemade dog biscuits and the picky Baby Dog ate two of them.  Score.  Baby Dog was absolutely insane with joy when I got back, which is as it should be. While recovering I was dreaming about petting her – so the shared joy is mutual.

So, I had a successful operation on the torn bits of the knee, was able to communicate easily with a few folks and with determination with others. The operation was done under a general anesthetic so they could have been whispering in Swahili while listening to We Are The Champions by Queen and I wouldn’t know the difference.

Under the best of circumstances

I belong to a wee little Druid Grove. The old timers there know my hearing is bad, but I’m a known quantity so they don’t think about it a lot. In fact, a few of them forget it most of the time and start making so much noise I can’t hear what I need to hear. Hidden issues remain hidden even over many years, even after many statements. We all have our own abilities and disabilities anyway from wheelchairs to canes to wretched puns to creaky bones.

Every year at Yule the ceremony begins with lights out and windows open to replicate the creation myth of the Norse – cold and dark.  It is probably my favorite part of the entire liturgical year despite the joys of being unable to lip read.  Even an Interpreter would be useless in the dark since I’ve got a frozen Franklin cup full of ice in one hand and sometimes a candle in the other.

This year the Dean and the Secretary pointed out early that I’m functionally deaf and how people need to talk directly to me and be sure I know they’re talking to me, not just talking in general.  This was because there were  new individuals present. Two of our visitors were quite talkative – Chatty Kathy and Chatty Karl. And we also changed the format – all meeting around the feasting table, rather than sitting in a circle in the living room of the Dean. In general, circular situations are more HoH/Deaf friendly.  Fortunately, I tend to know the meditation and a good deal of the material being presented after all these years. So even if I don’t hear it I get it – hard to miss a candle being lighted or a frozen cup of ice. 🙂

This year the extra people resulted in a very long ritual – since it is in blót format there’s more participation with the Toast, Boast, and Oath. We didn’t have a Sumbal this year (asperging) and for those of you interested in this, there’s a lot of mutually contradictory information on the web. 🙂 In general I don’t like anything that would get my HA wet.

One thing I did note is that the most talkative one (who didn’t interact much with me) knew how to come up behind a deaf or HoH person and gently direct with her hands on my shoulders so that I automatically moved to one side or the other. I don’t think most folks know how to maneuver around the Deaf of seriously HoH and that may be worth an observation here.

If you want to get attention, stamp hard on the floor a few times (assuming there are not a zillion people around) or pound on the table (again, assuming dishes won’t fly off) so that we can literally “feel you.” Another method is to flash the lights, which our Dean used to great effect with hearies and the deafies alike. That’ll get our attention immediately.

But in a crowd, if you come up behind a Deaf or HoH person a gentle touch to one shoulder or the other either gets a subtle move on my part away from that touch or lets me know you’re there. Please don’t ever grab one or both shoulders and attempt to move someone or swing them around to face you. That’s rude.  If you end up moving between two signers, just move quickly, don’t scrunch down. You might want to sign Excuse Me if you know how –  just keep on trucking, through.

Since this isn’t a high stakes situation (medical care) and since I’m familiar with the ritual and most of the folks there, this is an under the best of circumstances for me. I can relax and let life flow. Besides, the cooking is always fantastic for the feast. 🙂

And then there are days when things don’t go right

Today I went to yet another small town hospital to get ready for a day surgery on Monday.  Totally different experience.  I’m still saying “I’m functionally Deaf” and “I can’t hear you” and “Are you talking to me? Because you’re talking to a computer screen (or the wall or a binder), not to me.”  Some folks were standing 10 feet away talking at me (certainly not to me since I couldn’t hear a bloody thing).

Now, mind you, this hospital has signs all over about providing free interpreter services for the Deaf, but there was not one person there who had a clue. I ended up not responding. I’d make them say it 57 times until I understood it.  I kept repeating, “I’m functionally Deaf.”  Oh gee, there’s that D word again – the Deaf word.  I kept wondering what part of “I can’t hear you” is that hard to comprehend?

I kid you not, the receptionist, registration, insurance, volunteer, R.N. – you name it – they were all in the Ozone. SMH – this place is a law suit waiting to happen.

So it took about four times as long as it had to take because I got my back up and refused to do their work for them.  I’ve heard this place is lousy regarding service provision (apparently so) and yet it is owned by the same mega corporation that owns the great little ER in Ayer, MA.

The day surgery center is there and I wanted to get the surgery done in 2013 so I’m stuck with the place. But when we go there I’m going to make sure my daughter is front and center and making sure everyone is doing what they need to do the way she did when I got hurt last May.

When things are handled right

I had the misfortune to go to a small, local hospital on Christmas Day.  I had a persistent ear infection that simply refused to give up the ghost. When the itching, burning, swelling and pain became simply too much to bear I decamped to the tiny ER in Ayer, MA.

By this time I could not get my hearing aid in my ear due to pain and swelling.  For all intents and purposes, I am functionally deaf when the HA is out and the ear canal is swollen.

To tell the truth, I can say “I’m functionally deaf” all day long to people in my regular world and have it serve no particular purpose, but this once it made a difference.

Everyone from the registration clerk to the nurse to the doctor were educated to ask (repeatedly) if I wanted an interpreter. They all knew how to get my attention. They all understood my need for a quiet location if I were to understand anything at all. They all got my attention before speaking to me and spoke directly to me without looking away.  I’m so totally impressed with all of them.

Because they accommodated me with a private room and quiet environment I was able to cope with a combination of what sound I could hear and lip reading. Also, to be honest, I didn’t want to wait for the staff terp to be called and arrive.  Had the conditions not been so ideal, however, I’d have requested a terp in a heartbeat.

I knew what I needed and I got the prescription ear drops promptly (ahhh, blessed relief!). However,  I’m still not wearing my hearing aid until the infection is resolved because I have to carefully sterilize the earbud before putting it back in so as not to cause another infection. Which means I’m still functionally deaf.

Now, to be fair, this is the same facility I’ve raised holy heck with a couple of times over what I considered inadequate treatment of a relative of mine. Different issues, though. Different doctors. Maybe more enlightened times are coming. We can hope so. I’m tickled pink.

If the pro’s don’t get it , who will?

Yeah, I’ve been gone awhile.  I guess when I’ve got nothing to say I just don’t say it. 🙂

Today I took my grandson to his biannual hearing test and ENT examination. Now, you would think that everyone from the office staff to the MDs and PhDs there would “get it” that you look at people when you’re talking to them, speak clearly, enunciate, etc.

That would be a “No.” And that boggled my little pea brain.  Excuse me?

Actually,the front desk people were the best. The MD turned his back on me AFTER I explained I am signficantly “hearing impaired.”  The audiologist did the same @!#$! thing – Hi, I’m grandma and I have severe hearing loss – let’s feel free to go ahead and turn your back and jabber to the wall.  When I said, “I can’t understand a thing you just said.” the audiologist turned and said. “Don’t you have your hearing aid on?”

No, I didn’t rip her head off and hand it to her, but I did look at her like she was crazy. What I thought was – WTF?  What I said was, “Yes, I have it on. You need to look me right in the face when you talk to me or I cannot understand anything you say – it’s that bad.

And all these folks are working with Deaf and seriously HoH kids for a living?  Really? Where is Worf when you need him for a really dramatic face/palm.

At least on part-two of the doctor’s visit the doctor actually looked at me when he spoke around 90% of the time.

So they gave me a handout for his teacher and I’m now wondering if I should copy it and send it back to the doctor and the audiologist so they can be reminded:

Focus the person’s attention before saying the important facts of your utterance.

Speak to the person at close range in a lively, well-projected voice.  It is not necessary to shout.  It is more effective to use a natural, energetic voice at close range.

Let the person see your face when you are talking.  (In other words, don’t talk to the computer screen or the wall.)

Show the person what you mean when a visual demonstration is appropriate.

When the person says “Huh?” or “What?” repeat or rephrase what has been said without acting irritated.

Do not attempt to communicate across the room: go over to the person before you speak.

Be careful not to punish the person for failing to follow an instruction that might not have been heard – or heard clearly.

In a classroom setting, seat the person close to the spot where the teacher usual stands when addressing the class. (note, if the person has better hearing on one side, pay attention to communicate on that side.)

The student probably will miss comments or questions from other students in the class, particularly those with soft voices.  It is helpful for the instructor to repeat to the entire class what another student has said.

Check the student’s understanding of spoken instructions before the student begins individual seat work.

Help the student keep a sense of humor about miscommunications that arise because of a hearing problem. (i.e. it is the job of the communicator to get the idea across – take responsibility for the communication so the student can be made to feel okay about not hearing a bungled communication. In addition, never laugh at the student.) 

There.  Now I feel better, I think.