You Are Not a Patient, We Will Not Provide Accommodations: A Father's Story

Submitted by Terry Hunt

My name is Terry Hunt, and my wife’s name is Rebekah. I am profoundly deaf, but my wife is not deaf. This is about our experiences in two different hospitals and two different births of our children. With this article/blog, we are hoping that it would create more awareness and smoother communication for the deaf community.

Our first child is our son, Asher, who was born in September 2017 at Tampa General Hospital.

Asher.jpg

Our second child is our daughter, Ava, who was born in July 2019 at Morton Plant Hospital.

Ava.jpg

Tampa General Hosptial

We had two different experiences with both hospitals, needless to say, our first child was the most traumatic experience for us. At Tampa General Hospital, we were denied for interpreter many times after we have requested it numerous times before the pre-registration, emergency visit, and during the day of labor. We have even asked if they can’t give us interpreter, then could we have video relay interpreter? Again, we were denied for that. One of the nurse staff has made a comment, “We have the thing for the deaf, and we don’t know where it is. It has taken up a lot of rooms and put away in one of the closets. 

Our first visit at Tampa General Hospital for the tour, one of Rebekah’s question was, “How do we get an interpreter for my husband while I’m in labor?” and their response was “You won't because he’s not the patient.” The next question was “What if it was a life-threating situation and I’m not able to make a decision, but the decision must be made within a minute or less, and you have a communication issue with the deaf person.” Nearly everyone in that tour was shocked to hear the response from the tour guide, “Let’s hope we don’t go that route.”

During the two emergency trips to Tampa General Hospital, both of our requests for interpreter or VRI was denied again.

On September 27th, 2017, Rebekah went into labor with Asher, before we learned that she is a failure to progress, which can’t process to give natural birth. From the time she was on medication, and her mind wasn’t 100% there or fully alert of what was going on. As for me, I just sat in the corner, always asking my wife, what are they saying? What did that doctor say? What did that nurse say? Most of the time, she is too focused on trying to push out the baby, regain her energy, or trying to take her mind off the pain. Rebekah has been so frustrated that she would have to interpret for me, with all the pain, and IV that was inserted in her hand.

For over two days of labor, around 10 am on September 29, 2017. The nurse team came in start rushing because the situation became severe and emergency. Rebekah was waking up all of a sudden, and I was woken up as well because I felt the vibrations off the floor. Nobody was letting me know what was going on, but everyone was talking to Rebekah. She was screaming at the nurses to tell me what was going on, and she as trying to sign to me as well, but she couldn’t. The doctor came into the room and pulled her bed out of the room into the operating room. The nurse came into the room and gave me the operating room outfit to put on without saying a word or telling me what is going on.

Finally, I went into the operating room and saw Rebekah laying, and I could tell that she had some good cocktails and prep for emergency c-section. There was no communication or anyone to sign to me during the operating room; the nurses and doctors kept looking at me and trying to communicate with me with the mask covered their face. I’m always telling them, I’m deaf, and I can’t understand you with the mask covering your face.

One nurse took off her mask to let me read her lips and know what was going on but still not a good source of communication. Finally, Asher was born at 11:00 am an as healthy baby. After Rebekah has regained herself from all the medication and had some rest, she has explained to me what happened that morning. Asher’s heart rate has dropped so low that he wouldn’t survive birth, and they had to perform an emergency c-section. Thankfully, that Asher and Rebekah are well today.

A mystery nursing staff has come into the room with the VRI on the cart, and we thought it was one of their portable computers that all the nurses use. She plugged it, turned it on, and walked out without telling us what it is. The funny part about that, it was brought in right before the discharge. 

VRI issues

When we had the VRI turned on during the discharge discussion, the interpreter in VRI couldn’t hear or understand the doctor. That interpreter was signing a lot of things that were never said by the doctor. Rebekah caught the interpreter and corrected them many times. The interpreter constantly said, they can’t hear the doctor and VRI couldn’t be unplugged from the wall to be moved closer to the doctor or the bed. So Rebekah asked them to stop interpreting, and she will start interpreting the discharge information to me. The issue with VRI is the internet speed was not fast enough for the streaming, and it couldn’t be unplugged from the wall.

We wanted to get out of Tampa General Hospital as quickly as possible and go home!

Morton Plant Hospital

When we have learned that Morton Plant Hospital follows the ADA laws closely and have a staff interpreter, Dana Kelly, at the hospital, Morton Plant has valued the deaf community significantly, and Dana has gotten the interpreters for us from AQI Agency for the after hours. The decision was made quickly to have our second child born there without a question to ask. We were thrilled and excited that they have an interpreter on staff or they provide an interpreter from another agency. They also have a VRI equipment stored in an office where the nurses can find it quickly and kept it clean from dust.

During our pre-registration, the nurse staff worked with us on the agency we prefer, without debating, we accepted the on-staff interpreter from 7 am to 3 pm and have the agency interpreter to come in from 3 pm to 9 pm. The on-staff interpreter will go into the operating room with us during the day of delivery for Ava. 

First trip to Morton Plant Hospital

Rebekah started to have contractions and was in pre-labor, we rushed to Morton Plant Hospital and sent a text to the interpreter agency. The interpreter was at the hospital and waiting for us to arrive. We were sent home because it was false labor. 

Second trip to Morton Plant Hospital

Again, another trip to Morton Plant and false labor. However, an interpreter was waiting for us in the lobby after midnight. After everything was checked out, we went home again. The first two visits, we had an interpreter ready for us.

Happy Birthday Ava

Finally, Rebekah was ready for pregnancy to come to an end. She was scheduled for a c-section since she can’t progress or give birth naturally. She was able to relax and not having to worry about interpreting for me or let me know what was going on. We had an interpreter from the moment we walked into the hospital to when we were discharged. We also had the interpreter during the operating room. Our stress level was the ordinary parents going through delivery instead of overstressed about communication or knowing what is going on. Every interpreter that came to interpret for us has stood by my side for every doctor, nurses, and even food administrators that has walked into the room.

During the delivery of Ava, we were able to enjoy the birth and ready to take more pictures without being stress. It was one of those happy moments. 

Ava has been a smooth delivery, and better hospital stay than Asher has been. Tampa General need to understand the ADA laws. If we are planning on our third child, Morton Plant will be our choice of hospital and AQI Agency will be our choice of interpreting services for after hours. Both Morton Plant and AQI Agency has done an outstanding job with communication.

 The last thing I want to say is Morton Plant does care for the deaf community if they are patients, families, or friends. They care for everyone that comes to Morton Plant.

Terry Hunt is the president of It’s a Deaf Thing – Deaf Expo & ProjectDEAF. Rebekah Hunt is the event coordinator for It’s a Deaf Thing – Deaf Expo. Our focus is to help the deaf community to prevent any language barrier during any hospital, doctors, or any business visits.

Terry Hunt, President Terry.Hunt@ItsaDeafThing.com