Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Deaf One

Recently I've started seeing a patient who was born deaf. We'll call her Jane. (You'll probably notice that all of my female patients are named 'Jane Doe.' If the story requires naming another one, you'll find Janet, Janine, and Jinny... along with their spouses John, Jim, and James. Just making sure Im observing HIPPA.) She'll tell you that fact and shrug her shoulders, saying in the blurred pronunciations of one who cannot hear her own voice, "I don't know why." For her, communication is obviously something that she has struggled to achieve. She speaks sign language, but few do so she has adapted other skills as well. She reads lips incredibly well as long as the speaker looks directly at her. Imagine trying to learn to speak if never heard a sound, yet she has achieved the ability to make herself understood however cumbersome it may be. She has endured this her entire life and is not bitter or questioning about it at this stage in her life. She is one of the sweetest and happiest residents in the entire facility. Or maybe I'm just biased, but I'm really enjoying working with her.

Today she showed me again what an amazing attitude she has. The facility I work in recruits various types of talents and performers to visit and entertain the residents. Today it was an elderly man armed with a slightly out-of-tune guitar and a repertoire full of comical ballads popular when our residents were much younger. I looked through the crowd and there sat my deaf one, smiling and obviously enjoying herself. A common view from people blessed enough to live in their own homes and take care of themselves is that "I'm not going to a nursing home. Nursing homes are for people who are waiting to die." Jane certainly isn't sitting around waiting to die, she's getting as much as she can from life. Most people won't go to something that they can't fully benefit from, but she participated the best she was able and enjoyed all that she could. And I was humbled.

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