Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deaf Chronicles: The Patient's Mommy


I’ve been a grouch.

Stewing through the day yesterday.

All because of one woman.

If I had to pinpoint one thing that bothers me most about interactions between deaf and hearing people, it would be the times when an oblivious hearing person treats the deaf person as if they were somehow less intelligent.

This is never more evident when you witness these actions:

“Nevermind” (when a deaf person asks them to repeat something)

Talking only to other hearing persons, excluding the deaf person

Refusing to face the deaf person and talking while facing another direction

Speaking at twice the normal volume while dumbing down their words

All of these things happened to me yesterday.

And rather than just being frustrated as a deaf person, I was angry as a parent.

This has happened before.  Memorably at Children’s Hospital at a very important appointment for our little guy.


Normally our doctors are wonderful.  Lots of communication and interaction.

But on this day,  Mr. World-Famous Specialist was there to see our rare little boy.

And as I kept trying to ask questions, he literally ignored me and spoke only to Mr. Daddy and to my mother.

My mother signed everything to me to ensure I understood.  I tried to speak several times and he was utterly dismissive.

Frustrated, I watched him turn his back to me and begin walking out the door with his entourage of medical students.  In desperation, I said in a not-quiet voice, “So he doesn’t have (X Disease)?”

You see “X Disease" was a rather clunky word and very rare.  Mr. World Famous Specialist stopped on a dime, turned around to see that those words had come from the deaf mother’s mouth, walked slowly back to me and repeated what I had said.

The change was instantaneous.  As I pumped him for more information using every big word I had learned in my research, I was painfully aware that he had considered me to be unknowledgeable and not worth his time earlier.

He engaged in a lively discussion with me – finally making eye contact, when before he had literally made me feel like a non-person.

And as the mother of the little boy on the examination table, I hated feeling helpless and excluded.


I’ve noticed for some time that our handsome little guy tends to cross his eyes when focusing on something a certain distance away.


As he sat through his first real eye exam yesterday, the technician gushed over how adorable and polite he was.


It was no biggie that her back was toward me when she spoke to him, but when addressing his parents, she turned to her computer and began asking questions.

Mr. Daddy answered a couple of questions, then told her more than once, “my wife is deaf, she needs to read your lips”.

“Mmm-hmm” as she swiveled around.  “OKAY”

Then went back to her computer and continued to ask questions that only Mr. Daddy could hear.

At double volume, she prattled along, ignoring me entirely when I tried to ask her to repeat herself.  Anytime I asked a question, she’d answer to my husband.

Seriously, this was the look I got every time I asked a question:


Then she’d immediately answer to Mr. Daddy as if I weren’t there.

And the kicker?

She had Mr. Daddy step out into the hallway while she discussed Itty Bit’s eyesight.  So I was completely excluded from the conversation.

She was smiling and cheerful and looked at me as if you would a grade-school kid who knew nothing about corneas and irises and dilation drops.  And as if I were somehow less intelligent and unable to be an active part of the decisions that were happening about my child.

When she stepped out to get the doctor, I admit that I loudly said to Mr. Daddy, “is there a reason she is refusing to speak with me?  She is doing everything she can to make me feel like a second-class citizen”.

It changed nothing.  When the doctor came in, he was perfectly friendly and answered every single one of my questions.  And then she returned with the same smiling not going to talk to the deaf mom attitude.

I was grateful to get out of there.  I struggled to keep from crying as we picked out a tiny pair of glasses for our little man.

Sure, I’m sensitive to it… because I’m making the effort.  I speak clearly and attempt to communicate verbally.  I try hard not to make it more difficult for someone to reply to me.  Being ignored is the worst feeling.

May I ask a favor?  Next time you run into someone who has an obvious disability… treat them normally.  Like they exist.  Like they can understand your communications.  Like their thoughts matter to you.  Don’t assume they cannot understand or that they don’t have feelings.

I struggle with venting like this, because in real life, this woman is probably perfectly nice.  And she was probably uncomfortable with the situation and chose to handle it by pretending it didn’t exist.  It reminds me that how we treat others can make or break their day.

And just because I’d rather leave you with something funny – here’s Itty Bit right before he exuberantly yelled, “that’s a HORSIE!”


Stay tuned for pictures of our dapper bespectacled little man!


Foursons said...

I'm sorry Rachel. I think there is just not enough awareness on how to communicate with someone who is deaf. Some people just don't know what to do. However, when Mr. D specifically tells thems that they need to turn around so you can read their lips and they still don't do it- well that is just plain wrong.

I wish I had a magic wand for you. Either to make your ears work or to make people understand.

Jennifer {Studio JRU} said...

Oh no... I am so sorry you had to go through such a day. If only people could be more considerate! Hoping the glasses make a positive difference for your little man! :)

GunDiva said...

Sorry you had a crappy day and that she's clueless.

Kara said...

Oh man... That's really frustrating. Sometimes I just don't understand why people act the way they do. Sorry it was a rough patch for you!

Can't wait to see the glasses... that kiddo sure is CUTE!!!

Brandi said...

Well. poop.

I just lost my comment... hate it when that happens. :/

Can't wait to see Itty and all his bespectacled cuteness!!!

Pam Bowers said...

My hot temper would not have allowed me to just sit back and take it. I would have made a huge scene. Good for you for keeping your cool. If I ever find myself in your area I will seek this lady out and proceed to completely ignore her!

Discovery School at First Baptist Heath said...

Okay.. so this is a long comment and I apologize in advance...

First, I am so sorry that anyone would be treated that way. Mr. Daddy most be very in control of himself, because my husband would come unglued to say the least..

Second, We have been blessed with so many friends in our lives that have had disabilities of some sort or the other.. I am bipolar.. so my "disability" is not obvious until ya know me for a while.. most of the time.. ya might just think I am a bitch..LOL.
I have shared your blog with my friend.. Her daughter was a set of indentical twins.. there were problems at 27 weeks.. the girls had broken through each others membranes and tied umbilical cords into knots.. They were delivered at 27 weeks.. One survived, one did not.. The surviving twin had her leg amputated at 1 week of age due to a blood clot..her amputation was above the knee. The little girl suffers from a few learning disabilites and can easily get overstimulated in normal social situations, which results in her being very shy...This little girl was the first child to make friends with my oldest when we were new to our school..( it was a miracle that she approached my daughter) and said " I bet you are scared today, I will be your friend!" 6 weeks later my daughter came home and said "Hey, My friend has an artificial leg!, I never noticed before".
The mom often worries about her child and how she is accpeted. I beleive that that little girl will change the world..and I told her Mom. The Mom says, someday.. and I say right now! Person by person she is teaching tolerance and acceptance. Her very appearance makes her an example and she is able to carry the load.

You are an example.. A glorious shining star of how we are all made different.. some of our ailments are obvious, some not so much.. but we all need to approach others with love and compassion.. with respect! The world would be a much better place

renee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kmama said...

Aw, Rachel. I'm in tears. I cannot imagine how frustrating that is. It's so wrong, and I'm so sorry you were treated like that.

renee said...

rach, i am so sorry you have to deal with this. and i totally agree with the above comment. you are a glorious shining star of how we are all made different. love you!

Shana Putnam said...

To Quote Mom of M&M's:
You are an example.. A glorious shining star of how we are all made different.. some of our ailments are obvious, some not so much.. but we all need to approach others with love and compassion.. with respect! The world would be a much better place

Now from my own mouth that sucks. I am sorry you had to deal with that and wish I could make it all go away. I do think though that Itty Bit is going to looks spectacularly adorable in glasses!

Cheeseboy said...

That is one handsome dude you have there.

Sad that people in the stinkin' MEDICAL FIELD treat people that way. If anyone should know better, it should be them.

Mrs. Mom said...

You need a rasp to administer RASP ENEMAS. I'll ship you one ;)

Squeeze IttyBitt from me. Bet he looks Wicked Handsome in his specs!@!!!!

robin said...

I hate when people clearly disrespect someone like that...I'm sorry. Even when an occasion arises with my MIL (who has Alzheimers and doesn't really understand much), I still make sure she understands what is said in front of her by a doctor or health professional. To totally ignore someone and continually talk over (or around) someone is like saying, you're not important or not worthy of my conversation with you! I think bedside manners need to be more of a priority in teachings!

Looking forward to Itty Bitty glasses, too!

kc said...

wow...suckish. Some people are just suckish. I am so sorry Rachel! You are amazing, not only the fact that you didn't burst into tears but that you kept your level head. You are teaching Itty Bitty (how cute is he?!?!?!) such valuable lessons in emotional management and acceptance. I respect you so much.

much love being sent your way!!!!

Presley family said...

Oh my friend, my heart breaks for you. I understand on some small level of what you have to go through. I get it with Bubba. Shoot, when he was a babe and I was a young mom the drs. would treat me that way. I then came to the next apt. with a HUGE binder of info. and research that I had done. They never talked down to me again! wink!

Unknown said...

Oh friend, I am sorry. I wish I could make everyone get it. Or at least smack them upside the head for you. :)

Cant wait to see pics of Little Handsome Man! I am sure he is a knockout!

Furry Bottoms said...

I was both groaning and making affirmative noises in your favor. MAN, that is exactly what life is like for a deaf person. They always look at you like you're not worth their time or effort. And I want to say HELLO, I am a deaf person living in a HEARING world and I am making EVERY effort to be a part of it and YOU are not helping, you arrogant (beep)!!! OH it just makes me so mad. I've lots of stories just like this, and like you, I struggle with voicing it because number one, its another "oh pity you" comment from somebody who really doesn't understand... and number two, I don't want to be a downer. But it really is what life is like... its frustrating as heck!

Michelle Pixie said...

You are an amazing woman in my book! It drives me looney when my kids mumble and I can't hear them and they say "nevermind" when I ask them to repeat it. I surely would lose it on the medical "professionals" {using that word very loosely!} if they treated me in this manner.

Rising Rainbow said...

You know in my recent court battle I went through the same kind of dismissive behavior from the judge because I was acting as my own attorney. That automatically meant I must be stupid and not understand. It was so frustrating to not be given a chance and to be treated in such condesecending and dismissive ways. I had valid arguments that were not even considered because of my pro se status so I know exactly how you feel, even if it was not for the same reason. It still sucks to be treated like that. I'm sorry you had to go through it.

Emmy said...

So so sorry :( Thank you for sharing this I bet every single person that reads your blog will try really hard not to act like that ever in their lives.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

I'm mad for you, with you. I just read another post by a deaf blogging friend tonight that was almost the MIRROR image of this type of situation. Honestly people? Really!?
I'm so glad for you and others who share these stories to help us all.

tattytiara said...

Aw, that photo on the table is so cute!

People in the medical profession should know better, and I'm not speaking abstractly or generally - I mean they are failing at their profession if that is the low level of appreciation they have for the perspective of somebody it is their job to communicate with. That's not just unprofessional, it's unskilled. They are paid to communicate as much as they are to diagnose and treat.

Dyann said...

Is Mr. Daddy around so I can make a comment to him?


And yes, you may punch me now.

Angie Vik said...

Thank you for sharing so honestly. As I read,I know that I've been guilty of what you've described. A deaf couple visited our church last year and I didn't know how to talk to them. I felt inadequate for not knowing sign language and not being able to think well on my feet and for not knowing the right way to "talk" to a deaf person. However I wouldn't have ignored them if they'd made the requests you described in your post.

I sort of get the same way when talking to someone who speaks a foreign language. I feel helpless and don't know how to communicate. Your post will help me to be braver and think of the other person rather than my discomfort.

I think your ability to read lips is amazing. I've tried before and can't figure out what is being said. I admire you for learning sign language and how to read lips and how to put up with insensitive people.

Lexie Loo, Lily, Liam & Dylan Too said...

Oh, Rachel, that has to be incredibly frustrating. People can be really insensitive.

Stacy said...

So sorry you have to deal with people like this...ugh! I can't believe how people deliberating treat others like that. I'm not surprised by the super specialist doctor. Their egos are known to be huge and they treat everyone badly it seems!

Oh, and I am sure he is perfectly adorable all bespeckled. :)

Mr. and Mrs. Nurse Boy said...

So sorry. I love that you posted this. People lack common sense. I wish common sense was more common. ((HUGS))

HeatherOz said...

Sorry Rach. You'd think medical professionals would have more brains...........or balls.
I wanted to let you know, that just knowing you through your blog has made me more aware of people with disabilities. There is a Mom of a student in Lily's class who is in a wheelchair. I admit I was a little uncomfortable at first. But I decided not to be an idiot and just treat her like a fellow Mom. Duh!!! I think maybe people don't talk to her very often because she talked my ear off. LOL Very very nice woman with a devastating story! Any way, Love ya! Hang in there.

Aunt Crazy said...

When we meet in person, please know that I'm not yelling so you can HEAR me better, that loud decibel is my normal speaking voice and while I don't know sign language, I use my hands to talk, a LOT, so I'm loud and'll love me anyway, PROMISE.

I think most people react because they don't know how to handle the situation, but when Mr. Daddy specically tells them to look at you and speak, it's just flat out rude to not do that.

I'll throat punch all of them for you!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for this late reply, been catching up on my blogs. I feel the same as you. Sometimes I actually go by myself on purpose so the kids' doctors/dentists/etc will have to deal with me, and only me. They don't have a choice. When I am with my husband, I'm invisible. Even at parties, I'm still invisible. It's an awful feeling.

Anonymous said...

I'm so frustrated and angry FOR you. This is awful. I wish I knew of something really nice to say...but I'm just steaming as I sit here!

Tara G. said...

Seriously, people can be so ignorant! I think I'd write a polite letter to the office, too, expressing my disappointment.

P.S. my stands came- did yours?!

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