April 27th, 2009 by Elizabeth | Tags: ASL, Cochlear Implant, Crazy Situation, Deaf Community, Medical Care, Misconceptions, Well-Known People | 18 Comments »
Tonight’s episode of the Fox network’s television show “House” featured a story about a deaf (probably considers him self Deaf?) high school wrestler who develops some mysterious symptoms. Sounds like a case for Dr. House and his team!
While watching, I jotted down a few of my notes/observations about the episode:
- When the doctors are discussing why the young man, deafened by meningitis at age four, doesn’t have a CI, one doctor says something along the lines of, “He doesn’t have a CI because he’s comfortable with who he is. That’s admirable.” I dislike that statement because it implies that people who have cochlear implants are not accepting of themselves or their deafness. Having a cochlear implant does not deny that you have a hearing loss or magically make a deaf person “hearing” or “healed” or any nonsense like that. Many people with cochlear implants are proud of their CIs and who they are.
- On the other hand, another doctor says, “Anything I can simulate with $3 earplugs isn’t a culture!” when discussing deafness as a disability vs. a culture with his colleagues. Though I understand his point, and his reaction is one that is very common among hearing people who have little/no experience with d/Deafness, I still felt that was insulting. Deaf Culture is not just about the inability to hear. I do think this was telling, though, because most people who are unfamiliar with the d/Deaf debates (aka the majority of the world!) have a similar reaction — “What!?! Of course it’s a disability not being able to hear! Of course you’d want to hear if you could!” That’s just the general public’s perception.
- The hospital did not provide an ASL interpreter… or at least not in any of the scenes that were shown. His mom was with him, serving as interpreter, for the entire hospital stay. Speaks for itself. Now I’m not saying that any mother wouldn’t want to be by her son’s side throughout such a scary time in his life BUT that she’s his link to the world is, well… a limitation. There. I said it. Also, if he does communicate only through sign, he deserves a certified ASL interpreter so Mom can be “mom” and not working during his hospital stay.
- In one scene, Dr. House brings in a boom box and places it on the patient’s stomach, asking if he can feel the vibrations. When the boy says he can feel the music but not hear it, House mutters, “Apparently your Mom doesn’t care what you’re missing.” Perhaps true, but that is really hurtful (and in keeping with his character). Even though I am a strong proponent of CIs/AVT, I don’t think for a minute that parents who choose otherwise don’t “care” for their children. I believe that, given all the choices, the listening and spoken language approach literally “speaks” for itself and holds up quite well under scrutiny, but I know that parents agonize over this very important decision, and if they do not choose listening and spoken language, it’s not usually because they don’t care for their child. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most parents choose what they feel will be best for their child and their family, and that is their right!
- Spoiler alert: House orders one of this subordinate physicians to implant a CI in the patient while he is under anesthesia for another procedure (a brain biopsy). Whoa! Totally unethical, illegal, and all kinds of wrong! That’s just ridiculous. Also, hospitals don’t just keep CIs lying around. They have to be ordered from a specific manufacturer (one selected by a consenting patient or their parent/guardian, I might add!) for each specific patient at their specific surgery time. It’s not just, “Go to the supply closet and pull out one of those CI kits — I feel like doing a surgery today!” Also, if the patient was deafened by meningitis over a decade earlier, there’s not telling what the state of his cochlea would be — most likely it would have suffered significant ossification (bony growth) and implanting the electrode array might be close to impossible. (Side note: If you are deafened due to meningitis and considering a cochlear implant — seek medical advice quickly before cochlear ossification may make the choice for you!)
- Then in the next scene, TA-DA! Not only has his incision site miraculously healed, but his external processor has already been activated and he is hearing. By gum, it’s MAGIC! No MAPing or audiologist necessary. Wow. Whatever surgical technique Dr. House and his team are using, I sure wish they’d share it with the rest of us and spare us all the weeks of waiting between surgery and initial stimulation!
- As a result of the brain biopsy (the original reason for putting the patient under anesthesia… that then turned into the spur-of-the-moment CI surgery) he emerged from the procedure with two circular scar-like marks on his forehead. Those were from the brain biopsy, NOT the cochlear implant surgery. This was never explained, so now people are going to think that’s what CI surgery involves/looks like. Great. Because we needed another myth!
- The CI surgery was referred to as “brain surgery” several times. COCHLEAR IMPLANT SURGERY IS NOT BRAIN SURGERY. How many times do I have to say it? It’s not.
- Another spoiler: After his instantaneous surgery, recovery, and hook-up, the young man decides he does not want the CI and… brace yourself… RIPS IT OUT OF HIS HEAD. Yeah, right! First of all, the internal part of the CI is usually sutured into the “well” that is created in the temporal bone to house the internal receiver. Ripping it out, or even having it move from the original insertion site on its own, is highly unlikely. But that he would even be able to get to the internal part is laughable, because he’d have to get through layers of hair, skin, and cartilage PLUS the staples, sutures, and/or steri-strips (surgical glue, alternative to stitches) used to close the incision site. So yup, if you get sick of your CI, just reach up there behind your ear, scratch a little, and that sucker’ll pop right out. Magic!
So, all in all, a not-so-offensive but also not-so-factual portrayal of deafness and cochlear implants in the media. Interestingly enough, the CI brand that was featured (though never named) in this episode was the same one used in the made-for-TV movie “Sweet Nothing in My Ear”. That means nothing to me either way — good or bad — but I just think it’s fascinating what must go on behind the scenes for these “product placement” negotiations and how much say the companies have as to how their products are portrayed.
Did you see this episode? What did you think?