As someone with profound hearing loss, I like to be prepared for any scenario and in this case.
Back in October, my Mum had a nasty accident which I witnessed at the time. I was prepared for some communication issues with the emergency services, but others caught me off guard.
On that day, my mom slipped on a door mat and landed on her arm on a cold, hard conservatory floor. I was sitting at the table and I saw her go down. At first I thought nothing of it and that she would get herself up. Two minutes later, she was still lying on the floor so I quickly went over and asked if she was alright. I noticed she was hyperventilating and was trying to tell me her arm hurts. I suggested if she could move it but every attempt hurt her too much.
In attempts to get her help, this is what I learned.
EmergencySMS service in the UK lets deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired people send an SMS text message to the UK 999 service where t will be passed to the police, ambulance, fire rescue, or coastguard. I registered my mobile phone with Emergency SMS UK previously, so I knew about this resource. Click here to download the emergencySMS leaflet.
In the US, Text-to-911 is available in certain locations, allowing you to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device. To check to see if the 911 call center in your area supports text-to-911, download the list of areas supporting available service (updated monthly).
By being aware of these services, you can determine the quickest method to get help.
When my mom had her accident, I told her to wait there whilst I grabbed my phone. Even though I signed up for the text messaging service, I thought EmergencySMS would take too long. Instead, I ran to my neighbour who was out in the garden and I asked them to call an ambulance.
While the ambulance was on the way, my first instinct was to keep Mum comfortable and warm, as the floor was so cold. I wrapped her in blankets and placed cushions under her head to support it and moved any obstacles that were in the way.
I didn’t need to give her any urgent medical care, but my First Aid training as part of my Lifeguard Qualification, gave me a good background for urgent medical care if needed.
It was such a long wait for the ambulance crew to come, but when they finally arrived they were asking lots of questions and I didn’t hear them.
On reflection, it may have been useful for my neighbor who called the ambulance to let them know that I was deaf.
Luckily, my Mum was well enough to explain to them about my deafness and my need to lipread them. (Prior to that, I didn’t know they were talking to me.)
After they knew my communication needs, I had to describe everything that happened and they were great at making sure I understood them and what they were doing. Eventually after giving her a lot of pain relief, they managed to sit her up.
The ambulance lady made sure Mum and I were okay and explained what would happen when we got to the hospital. When we arrived, everything was passed over to a medical staff member who took us through to X-ray and then cubicles. One thing I noticed is when a Doctor or Nurse came over to do something, you never saw them again- it was a different person every time. We don’t know how they managed to pass messages on! Due to this, I thought there was no point explaining my deafness to every staff member as they haven’t got time for it. It was annoying having to ask my Mum to translate, which when she was high on pain relief, which wasn’t a good idea and everything seemed hilarious to her!
“I thought there was no point explaining my deafness to every staff member as they haven’t got time for it.”
After numerous tests and X-rays they confirmed she had broken her arm. It’s not the result we wanted but we were glad it wasn’t anything too serious. After a long 6 hours we finally went home.
On reflection, I understand hospital staff are super busy, but if it was myself in the hospital bed, I’m not sure whether they would have the time to make sure I knew what was going on or whether Deaf people are allowed interpreters.
In the UK, there has recently been an Accessible Information Standard introduced within the National Health Service. This is a legal requirement to ensure there is effective communication between medical staff and those with disabilities. I recently enquired about this at my local Doctor’s Surgery and the receptionist didn’t know anything about it. This doesn’t seem to be promoted and advertised well within the UK Health Service.
I would be interested in hearing about anyone else’s experiences with regards to the Standard, please do comment below!