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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Do You Sign?

The call came in for a fall victim at the community center. It was one of the best times of the day to get a call there (this last statement is dripping with sarcasm). It was during the senior citizen's activities. This would turn my ordinary call into a spectator event.

When we arrived we were informed by a staff member that my patient, a 70 year old man, had fallen and may have lost consciousness. She wasn't sure how it happened or if he hit his head. Apparently there were no witnesses to the fall but a lot to the aftermath.
To make matters more difficult we quickly discovered that our patient was deaf. Luckily, my engineer knew enough ASL (American Sign Language) to be able to spell out a couple of simple questions. It was seemed clear that our patient was grateful that we were there but that he didn't want to go to the hospital. But since we couldn't talk to him we were stuck and had to assume he was injured.

After my engineer had ascertained that the old man hadn't hit his head, and had no head, neck or back pain, we cleared c-spine. One of the overly helpful old ladies in the peanut gallery proceeded to inform us that he may have a neck injury and we should do something about it.

I asked her if she had seen the fall? No. Did she know the man? No. Why did she think the man had a neck injury? He fell and that can happen.

I though she was going to say that she had seen it on TV.

As AMR walked onto the scene I flippantly asked the medic if she spoke sign language. To all of our surprise (including her partner) she said yes. She started to sign with the man and discovered that he doesn't speak ASL, he speaks RSL (Russian sign Language). Fortunately the two languages were close enough that the two could communicate.
We left the patient in the care of AMR who had decided to wait for his daughter to come get him.

I'm still amazed that we were able to talk to the guy at all.


Anonymous said...

My partner and I are in the process of teaching ourselves sign language. While me may not always get the signs correct, they tend to be close enough and we know enough people who sign on a regular basis to correct us when necessary. We haven't had to use it at work, but we both also volunteer with the Special Olympics and you would be amazed at how many athletes may be non-verbal but can sign. I consider it to be one of my best skills, in progess. Everyone in EMS should learn a few signs, even if you're only able to tell someone that you're there to help them.

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

That's a great idea. It would probably be smart to learn the basics in other languages that are predominant in the area in which you work.

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