July 28th, 2013

Deafblindness in hospital

I'm writing a fanfic, set in Oxford England, nowadays. (Which is basically an attempt to purge me of an angsty head canon.) One of the characters has become deafblind following a virulent and too late treated bout of meningitis. He's otherwise healthy and 35 years old.

Due to him being severely ill, he's in the ICU for a bit, before being transferred to a high Dependency ward. His friends will come and visit, and an elderly patient in the next bed takes to him and tries to keep him calm during the night.

He's not completely deafblind. He cannot see anything useful, but can sense a change in light. (He'd be able to tell if he was looking at a light bulb, or went from a light to a dark room). He has severe hearing loss, so that most speech is indistinguishable and he cannot hear much at all. He'll be given hearing aids which will amplify what he can hear.

The questions I have is this; (Sorry there are loads)

  • Would they have to wait for him to recover fully from the meningits before they could do a hearing test/fit hearing aids?

  • How would they communicate with him? He's still fairly ill, doesn't know Braille/BSL/Tactile signing. I was thinking Print On Palm (where letters are 'drawn' onto thedeaf blind person's plam, spelling out the words)

  • If Print On Palm was used, how would they explain to him what it was for. I'd imagine that he'd be very, very scared and taking hold of his hand would scare him more.

  • Would he need a nurse to take him to the toilet? Or at least to help him find it. Or would they give him a catheter?

  • Would he need to be fed, for would they guide his hand to the food/cutlery and just stay and make sure he's alright?

  • How would they comfort/reassure him when he wakes up and first realises that he can't see, and a bit later that he can't hear? He's going to be shouting at them and scared, and I'm not sure how the doctors or his friends (assuming that they are allowed to see him when he wakes up) would calm him down.He'd still be quite ill and weak, and they won't want him to strain himself.


I am aware that blind, deaf and deaf blind people are fully capable of looking after themselves and don't need to be fed and such. I promise that I am not trying to be offensive, I just assumed (possibly wrongly) that waking up from sedation and finding that you cannot see or hear, would be highly traumatic and it would take a fairly long time to adapt even a little to this.

I've done various google searches and every type of 'being deafblind in hospital' that I can think of. The only problem is that the results tend to be about people that are already deafblind and the provisions that are made for them. There's not any information that I can find about what happens when someone is newly deafblind/has suddenly and unexpectedly acquired deafblindess.

Thank you in advance for any help :)
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