Before I got my chest piece done, I needed to get rid of two moles from my chest. Unlike moles, you can tattoo over scars as long as they’ve fully healed.
It’s not uncommon to get moles removed for non-cosmetic reasons, so I did not need to justify my superficial reasoning. I can’t remember whether the doctor I ended up seeing was a specialist that required a referral from another doctor. It happened so long ago, but based on how the procedure went, the only thing this doctor specialized in was being presumptuous. Obviously, I don’t remember his name but for the sake of this story, let’s call him Dr. Clown.
After telling Dr. Clown what I needed, he gestured for me to take my shirt off and lie on the examination table. He cleaned the skin and then snipped the two moles off with surgical scissors. He finished the job by slapping a single adhesive bandage over the wounds, which meant the sticky parts were over the wounds instead of the square of gauze. This was a real head-scratcher, but I had gotten what I wanted. I was in and out of his office in less than ten minutes. Twenty years I’ve had these moles on my chest, and they were now in the medical waste bin in Dr. Clown’s office. Or perhaps he tacked them to his corkboard? He didn’t seem to be much of a stickler when it came to following medical protocol.
I am not giving the condensed version of this story: at no point did Dr. Clown explain the procedure and what to expect. He gave no aftercare instructions. It was uncomfortably abrupt.
Hearing people limiting their interaction with me is nothing out of the ordinary. When it comes to medical procedures, though, skimping on the details is flat out negligence.
When I was given a cortisone injection to treat a hypertrophic scar–by a different doctor–I was not warned that it would feel like getting injected with lava. Then, within a week of the injection, the scar collapsed. It went from being raised to sunken and stayed that way for several years before finally flattening. I didn’t know what to expect, because nobody told me what to expect, but it wasn’t that!
For these highly regarded people with medical degrees, the preferred method of treating deaf patients is to just go for it. We’re the carte blanche of patients. Almost as good as cadavers! On the contrary, for most hearing people, the last time they got poked and prodded by a doctor without explanation, they were either five or younger, or unconscious.
It happens to be a doctor of the teeth who was responsible for the most extreme instance of this. In 2011, I asked my dentist who–up until that point had been good about communicating with me in writing–if he could correct what I called my reverse snaggletooth.
I was hoping he could yank the tooth out and re-insert it where its more orderly enamel counterparts were. My dentist had a more progressive plan in mind: braces. I wouldn’t have to wear them for long, he said. It was something he could do, making the cost of getting braces lower than if I were to go to an orthodontist.
I agreed to this plan.
This procedure was to be done in two parts. At the first appointment, brackets were bonded to my teeth, then I had to chomp on some dental putty. The second appointment, of course, was for the installation of the wires.
I was given a set of eight clear aligners. Wireless braces! The brackets that had been glued to my teeth were so that the aligner would snap in place. In less than a year, my reverse snaggletooth was a thing of the past. I loved the invisible braces.
What I did not love was how my dentist neglected to communicate with me that badly. The result shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. I’d like to be walked through the procedure from start to finish, like everybody else.
From now on, no matter how many times I’ve seen the same doctor/dentist/anyone who is going to touch me, I need to ask, “What exactly are you planning on doing? How long will it take? What can I expect? Will this cost me money?”
I must remind people that my deafness hasn’t cancelled the autonomy I have over my body.
To confirm that this was indeed a typical deaf experience, I asked two friends. It’s not a large sample size, but I’ve dealt with enough hearing people to know that there’s no way other deaf people have managed to evade this experience.
Zoée’s response was, “Yeah, it’s the worst. They basically treat kids better than us in some ways…”
Kristina was also in the affirmative, “Yup. Some treat us like invalids, pretty much.”
It’s not just doctors or dentists either: I’ve had a sudden pat-down at the airport after informing the security person that I was deaf. In public, hearing people frequently reposition us as they see fit. The communication barrier exists for us too, yet I don’t think they’d be so forgiving if we were to grab their shoulders and move them without warning.
Most of the time, we grin and bear it. On the upside, I can now do it with a decent-looking smile, which was the product of a very confusing procedure.
If you’re interested in reading my other posts about life as a deaf person, follow this link.
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