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Deaf Without Communication During Surgery

January 18, 2024

Topics covered: Surgery, consent, and Interpreters

Imagine being Deaf without communication during surgery. Here, Allysa shares an isolating, scary surgery experience. And in the process, she raises important questions about consent. It wasn’t until years later that she had a positive surgery experience and realized what informed healthcare should look like. Watch the full story below.

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Video Description and Transcript

Video Description:

The post has a video thumbnail with rose shading overlaid. The middle has a text bubble that reads “A dehumanizing surgery experience” in blue text with white background. In the video: A woman with long blonde hair is standing in front of the camera and she is wearing a dark red shirt and lipstick.


Looking back, a difficult situation that I had experienced was my surgery around five years ago. I needed serious surgery. I requested a sign language interpreter, and everything felt ready to go. When I showed up on the day of the surgery, there was no interpreter, much to my dismay. I couldn’t postpone the surgery because I had waited for awhile to get that surgery for my health, my family was already in town ready to support me, I had already taken time off from work, among several other reasons. I reluctantly went ahead with the surgery without an interpreter. It ended up a very difficult and traumatizing experience. Before the surgery, during, and after. I felt like I wasn’t human. The medical team barely exchanged written notes with me, I couldn’t understand anything with their masks on, they often didn’t even pull the masks down. I still remember clearly this part: when the anesthesia was administered, I received no warning or heads up. I had no idea when I was put under. After that negative experience – I admit that I avoided going to the doctor’s. I avoided taking care of my health. Often, I would just go to urgent care instead, last minute and for emergencies. Because of that surgery and several other past experiences: it’s what I knew. But, most recently, I had a second surgery. This experience was so different! It was a great experience, with wonderful interpreters and a very understanding, warm, and friendly surgery team. Before the surgery, I noticed that the team engaged with me often, frequently checking in, and not only asked questions once but twice, three times, four times, to confirm which side of the body they were operating on. I’d have to answer and confirm. Apparently, that’s the standard for surgeries. I had no idea. This time, I was an active participant regarding my care with my medical team. The team is working on me, therefore, I am actively involved. I had autonomy. I never realized it should be like that. When I woke up from the surgery, it was a smooth experience with the interpreter readily available. Communication was easy. I understood the discharge instructions, what to do, and which medications to take. There was no confusion. I felt confident in myself. Since that positive surgery experience, I’m more aware of what good medical care should be like. Oftentimes, most of us don’t realize, until we actually experience good care, what it should be like. We just don’t realize that the current status quo is not good enough. I also wonder often: what is the standard of healthcare that we should strive for our community? All our experiences are so varied across the board. Some negative, some positive with a few exceptionally rare, good ones. But for most of us, it’s subpar. So, what is good healthcare? [The screen fades to show a thumbnail of a faded white background of a doctor holding hands with another individual] Deaf. Healthy. DeafHealth. Learn more at]

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