Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Brief Moment of Wishing... for Hearing

On Monday, I attended Austin's birth with my friend Beth and her husband. During the twelve hours of labor, various nurses, the doctor and family members came in and out of the room.

For a couple of moments throughout the day, I briefly wished I could hear.

Don't get me wrong. I feel quite comfortable with myself and I'm assertive enough to ask people to repeat what is being said. So it's not a matter of accepting that I'm deaf. I was comfortable enough to feel that I didn't need an interpreter.

However, there are always situations that come up where asking to repeat things can't happen. For example, one of the husband's friends came into the room and a lot of conversation was flowing. I couldn't join in, since it was moving far too fast for me. A new nurse would come in every couple of hours and I would have to get used to lipreading a different person all day long. Those are the kinds of situations that deaf and hard of hearing people face on a daily basis and frequently get left out of, because there's no polite way to join in the conversation and comprehend everything that's being said.

I've attended two of Beth's births previously and felt quite comfortable supporting her. We've been friends for fourteen years. When it came time to push, I was on one side holding one leg, the hubby was on the other side. Pushing was moving alone routinely.

In the middle of Austin's birth, all hell broke loose. The doctor called a code and suddenly the room filled with doctors and nurses. I, of course, couldn't hear what was going on. Beth's husband mouthed the words, "They're calling for a cesarean!" Austin was stuck.

For several frightening minutes, there was a lot of yelling. I saw the doctor go in with both hands, and I knew instinctively that there was little time to spare. A nurse jumped on top of Beth and applied pressure. I knew those were emergency measures and something inside of me made me lean over Beth and urge her to push.

"Beth, push!"

And somewhere during the moments of praying, watching, and holding my breath, a thought suddenly popped into my mind.

I wish I could hear what everyone is saying.

The thought quickly disappeared as the events unfolded. Austin was brought to the baby warmer and for several heart-wrenching minutes, we didn't know if he was going to make it. It took a few minutes to get him breathing and he pinked up.

It wasn't until today that I reflected back on all that had happened and about that thought that had popped in to my head.

Why in the world, in the middle of all that was happening, did I wish that I could hear?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized why: when I urged Beth to push, I was operating on instinct. There was no way for me to hear the doctor's instructions.

What if I was wrong? What if pushing at that moment was not the right thing to do.

What if my lack of hearing and understanding had hurt my friend?

So it had me wondering about deaf and hard of hearing doctors and nurses-- there are several of them around the U.S.-- how do they handle emergency situations when a code is called?

Stay tuned as I find out more.


Anonymous said...

Hello Karen, wow what a scare!!! Poor Beth. I have been in that situation as a Deaf Birth doula. I hate being in that situation when I feel like I wish I was able to hear. Im there to support moms but when I cant hear what may be going on. It makes me nervous but one thing I do trust is a birthing mother's instincts or intution. I would ask the moms what do they want to do or what are they feeling then tell them to go for it unless my instincts says otherwise. A lot of times other people's meddlesome behavior gets in the way of a birthing mom's instincts or intution (not you of course). All what Beth has gone through cemented my belief that I am making the right decision to go for an Unassistant childbirth at home.

Celeste said...

Speaking as a hard of hearing person that attended lots of codes.... it is hard if the doc does something out of the norm. Masks are normally worn and that pretty much makes it a no mans land for us lip readers.Lucky for me , my main job was compressions, breathing and blood gases. Unlucky for me is I can no lionger do my job. My hearing loss has progressed and I cannot hear breath sounds good, a must in the respiratory field.

Celeste said...

I do know what you mean by wishing that you could hear something.

Karen said...

Do you miss working in your field?

Chris Brown said...

Wow, your post brought me to tears... What an experience. Lots of times those of us who can hear make mistakes by misunderstanding what someone said or meant.

Sometimes I wish I could mind read. Especially with my 15 year old daughter!

thanks for posting such an interesting and personal story.
Chris Brown

Karen said...

Ah, mind reading a daughter-- I wish for that too! :)

Celeste said...

Yes I do miss working in my field except for the part where I had to keep unwelling patients alive.

groovyoldlady said...

Oh Karen! I'm so glad everything worked out alright. If it helps, I FEEL deaf whenever folks are talking about html and shortcuts and other techy stuff.


Mom to Toes said...

I love this post.

It sounds to me like your instinct in this situation was right on.

I can understand why you wished you could hear at that moment. So that you could be sure you were reacting in the right way.

But I can't help but wonder if your deafness isn't what enabled you to trust your instinct - to tune out all the medical jargon and interference and just do what was *right*.

I think what Beth needed at that moment was You.

Karen said...

Groovy wrote: "If it helps, I FEEL deaf whenever folks are talking about html and shortcuts and other techy stuff."

Well gosh darn, that makes me double deaf then! LOL

Karen said...

Mom to Toes wrote: "But I can't help but wonder if your deafness isn't what enabled you to trust your instinct - to tune out all the medical jargon and interference and just do what was *right*."

You know what, you may just be right about that observation.

Gene Liebler, LCSW said...

Hi Karen, quite a scary situation. I've worked with people who have had similar events happen to them. I'm glad to hear that Austin came to and hope he is doing well. Although I don't doubt part of what you did was act on instinct, it also seems to me that your instinct was informed by your assessment as well, you saw the doc go in and the nurse push down. I wonder if you could hear it you would be able to even figure out what the doctors and nurses were saying, when emergencies happen they often begin speaking in pretty technical jargon.

Sometimes people who are deaf believe that if they could hear these types of things might be easier, and in some cases that's true. However, a lot of what you mentioned was also true for many who can hear, such as the difficulty in or inability to join conversations, and even though I can hear I would have no idea what to do in the situation with the birth of your friend's child. This seems to me to be an incident that really highlights your competency.

ellen weber said...

What a deeply moving story -- and a reminder that we each have parts inside of us that reach out and support - or yearn -- or care. This story inspired all of us to stay in touch with that intrapersonal intelligence -- that gets vuried in the busy lives we lead. Thanks for this amazing narrative!

homemom3 said...

Wow, such a scary experience and not knowing. I think you thought it just because you wanted to know exactly what you should have been saying at that particular moment and so you could hear exactly what the doctor was saying about the situation itself.

As for mind reading a daughter mine are only 6 and 3 but I wish I could even now.

Jana B said...

OMW medical situations like that would scare me TO DEATH!!! I can't even imagine...

I had no idea that there were deaf doctors or nurses out therer... hmm. I feel informed now! :o)

Anonymous said...

I had an 11lbs 2 oz 22in boy 1/12/06!!!!!! He is perfect and I'm sure yours is too!!