Man creates emergency American Sign Language booklets after witnessing a scared, deaf patient unable to communicate with her doctors before surgery
By Eddie Welsh
In the winter of 2007, I was attending nursing school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and during one of my clinical days I was placed in the delivery and labor unit.
It was 7:30 in the morning, and I was filing paperwork when a loud scream startled the medical staff.
We noticed all the yelling and screaming coming from a patient’s room down the hall, so other nurses and myself hurried down the hall to observe the situation.
From a distance I could see the room was filled with doctors, nurses, and technicians. As I moved closer for a better look, I noticed a pregnant, young girl crying and screaming; she was clearly in distress.
One of the nurses explained to us that the girl was pregnant and had to have an emergency C-section immediately in order to save her baby’s life.
The problem was the girl was deaf and she was unable to give her consent to the doctors who needed it for the emergency surgery. Unable to read and only able to understand American Sign Language, the doctors were having a very hard time trying to interact and communicate with her.
At this point, too much time had passed. Without being able to explain the severity of the situation to the young girl, the doctors could not wait for an interpreter to arrive.
Facing a life or death situation, the doctors had to take matters into their own hands and make the decision to take her to surgery.
Every once in a while, I can still see the terrified look on the young girl’s face: frightened, not knowing what was going on around her, or even what was going to happen.
After finding out the surgery had gone well, the experience made me stop and ask why hospitals do not have something for medical personal to use in an emergency situation to help communicate with the deaf, or hard of hearing.
With the help of my fiancée Laura Paynter, we developed an idea we had, and were able to create a booklet for medical staff.
We called it D.E.A.F.ecc, which stands for Deaf Emergency Awareness Form (emergency care cards).
The cards are made up of American Sign Language words, followed by illustrations for each one. Each word of vocabulary in the booklet has been illustrated to show the breakdown of the ASL sign.
These illustrations are broken down step by step to help simplify communication between medical staff and the deaf patient to help begin their assessment, and shed light on any concerns.
The booklet does not take place of an interpreter, but rather helps with communication before one is available.
After many years of working on this booklet, it was launched in 2015 at ECMC Trauma Hospital in Buffalo, New York, and is being used by the folks there.
Having been covered in many press releases, a commercial, and a worldwide interview by iDEAFNEWS, we have heard from people all over the world on how this booklet would help them.
Our goal is to get this into all hospitals in America, and possibly the world.
I have always having been that person who wants to see change, and help people in any way possible. This is my opportunity to do so.
See the commercial video below.
Engage with us on social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Share your story to us at email@example.com