Mike Fahey: The perils of a hospital appointment when you’re deaf

Posted on June 16, 2015

As austerity rolls on and the NHS struggles to cope on reduced budgets, maybe a good dose of the awareness needed to manage deaf patients would help cut costs, wasted time and prevent frustration felt by both NHS staff and deaf and hard of hearing patients.

I recently had an appointment at my local hospital to have a check up and turned up early at reception to book in. I told the receptionist that I was a profoundly deaf lip reader and would not hear when they called me.

I then noticed a sign mentioning they had pagers to alert people who wanted to go and get a coffee at the coffee bar … (Coffee bar! Since when has an hospital appointment to see a doctor involved sitting in a coffee bar?!) … And as missing the staff calling my name is the one thing that I find stressful and embarrassing, I thought “Great! I should be able to relax a bit more”, and so asked if I could have a pager to help me manage this part of my visit.

In the past I have (after telling the receptionist I am deaf and will not hear any call) sat waiting to be called, missed the nurse shouting and as a result, missed my “slot” and been put to the back of the queue, occasionally the nurse has mistakenly believed she could get my attention by screaming, jumping up and down and waving her arms like a banshee!

Err… No it doesn’t work… I’m deaf and I’m reading the paper! The latter is very embarrassing for me, very good exercise for the nurse, and excellent entertainment for everyone else during their own mind numbingly boring wait.

Unfortunately the receptionist did not know how to operate the pager and so asked the nurse if she knew. “Oh you don’t need to worry about that darling I’ll come and get you” she says in that really annoying ‘hearing person speaking to deaf person speak that they do’ (you know … the loud, slow motion, exaggeratingly annoying lip movements. Oh you DO know? I thought they only did that with me!)

Well! I thought… that was a waste of time. Never mind… she WILL come and get me.

And so she did, she was lovely really… “Just need to weigh you love, stand on there for me” Ok go and sit down again darling we’ll come and get you shortly” … all with that annoying “hearing person speaking to deaf person…” Ohh! Done that… sorry…

So I went and sat down. I’m still not worried… she WILL come and get me again.

A few moments later this guy walks in and speaks to the receptionist and she points at me nodding her head and smiling. This guy then walks over to me and signs to me… presumably to say “Hello I’m your interpreter for your appointment”

I frown and say “Sorry mate, I don’t use British Sign Language, I lip read, I don’t need an interpreter”.

Oh… that’s OK, I was booked by reception says the guy and walks over to get some paperwork signed by the receptionist who … suddenly doesn’t seem to be smiling at me anymore!

“Oh aye!” I’m off in my grumpy old man mode… thinking… Now how much did that interpreter cost the NHS for turning up to do a job which didn’t exist? They’re not cheap are they? And not the first time that’s happened to me either… flipping idiots… all they have to do is ask me!

And write it down CLEARLY on notes… PROFOUNDLY DEAF LIP READER WITH SPEECH! Or DEAF BSL USER INTERPRETER NEEDED or DEAF LIPREADER, LIPSPEAKER REQUIRED… grumble, grumble I go, I don’t know what the worlds coming to…

All of a sudden I become aware of this person screaming and jumping up and down like a banshee out of the corner of my eye… Erm… Flaming nurse who weighed me forgot to tell the doctors’ nurse I’M DEAF!

OH! COME ON… get some common sense… ALREADY!

Mike is a semi-retired fine artist working from his home studio in Lancashire. As a profoundly deaf lip reader, he is just one of a large family with a genetic history of deafness. Mike attended a mainstream school before being transferred to a school for the deaf aged 11. He worked as a landscape gardener for thirty years and married Sara (who is hearing), then attended university as a mature student and gained a BA and MA in Fine Art. He is father to a son (hearing) and daughter (deaf on one side) and is currently preparing for cochlear implant surgery.

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