The Secret Deafie: I was livid when my Deaf grandmother had an operation without being able to communicate with nurses

Posted on June 16, 2014

Do you have a story or experience you’d like to share? If you’d like to write a Secret Deafie column, just email

I am a hearing individual with a big deaf family background.

I received a text message from my Deaf father at the weekend with the term ‘’Pls hurry – your grandma operation now surgery what for – No interpreter’’.

Of course you can imagine, an 86 year old deaf lady having being forced to sign a consent form giving them permission to take her into surgery there and then to operate on her eye, is not the best really is it?

So there I was, stuck in traffic, panicking that they’ve thrown her into surgery without actually having taken any previous medical history, no interpreter and my dad, at his wits end… This has got to stop.

After huge parking issues, rushing through A&E, grabbing lifts and having no help from most members of staff; I’d finally arrived at the ward in which I found my father with his head in his hands. Not a sight a daughter wants to see as you can probably imagine. So I’d grabbed his attention and his story was:

“Mum was complaining of an itchy eye so faxed me. I drove over and saw her eye was cloudy looking and so decided to take her to A&E. I texted my sister to book an emergency interpreter which she’d confirmed she had done. We then waited at the hospital for the interpreter which didn’t show up after a couple of hours and so we then asked one of the members of staff at the hospital to book an emergency one because it would be their responsibility to do so anyway. They had then gone away for a long while and in the meantime I had texted you (myself), this was all too familiar to me so I just thought it would be easier to text you. Once you’d got my message and replied I knew it would be ok after you’d arrived. All of a sudden, they’d come out, made your grandma sign something and took her away from me. In the meantime, you had arrived and that’s when you took over.

That was just the story brief.

What had actually happened was, after my dad doing all of this for his mother, the surgeon and nurses took it upon themselves to force this woman to sign this piece of paper knowing full well they have not asked for any historic medication, no GP details, just a signature.
My grandma actually suffers from type 1 diabetes, takes several types of medication to ensure her diet is in control, suffers from very high blood pressure and yet to top this all, she is 86.

Once she was wheeled out of surgery, you can imagine she was pretty hazy. I let her sleep off the anaesthetic and meanwhile spoke to the nurse and surgeon to hear their side of the story.

The nurse’s statement was:

“Your grandmother came into the hospital complaining of a sore eye and having bad vision. Your father was the lip speaker throughout and I have a level 1 in BSL so I understood him well enough to explain the implications of what we need to do for your grandmother. I had taken her blood pressure to make sure it was ok enough to give the surgeon the go ahead and take her in. I had tried to book an interpreter, and when your father’s original one hadn’t shown up, someone from the agency said they’ll be with you within the hour. Because they didn’t show up and we were running out of beds, your father seemed happy enough for us to just take her in. He was smiling a lot of the time which led me to assume they were both happy with it and so we took her in.”

The surgeon said:

“Your grandmother’s surgery went very well, she may have a few issues now she’s had her cataract done such as infections, weeping eye, maybe even pain. If this is so, she must go to her GP for treatment. The reason we hadn’t had an interpreter? I am not aware of this as I am just the surgeon. I am given a job to do, I do it. Will that be all?”

As you can imagine, I was absolutely LIVID. She’s had surgery, no pre-op discussion, no medical details taken, ‘’your father can lip-read’’, ‘’I have level 1 BSL and explained the implications.’’ ‘’Your dad was smiling.’’ ‘’I am just the surgeon.’’ ‘’Will that be all?’’ I have actually come to the conclusion that NHS just do not care.

I have spoken with the agency that were ‘booked’ by the nurse, they have no record a call ever being made to them otherwise would have supplied a terp.

My auntie’s interpreter which was booked through a certain company hasn’t got back to us as to why a terp never attended.

I have actually just come to the conclusion that no matter what happens, unless I book them myself through my most trusted company, I shall interpret myself.

It shouldn’t be this way. Is it not enough what CODA’S do enough for their family growing up? Why are we still moaning about deaf people needing support and having equal rights? I don’t understand it.

Yet again, another depressing whinge from my side, not just as a family member but a terp too.


Do you have a story or experience you’d like to share? If you’d like to write a Secret Deafie column, just email

The Limping Chicken is the world’s 6th most popular disability blog. Check out what our supporters provide: 


The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.

The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below: