You Tianxiu, a deaf and mute woman, attempted suicide twice last month, once by taking pesticide, and the other time by jumping into a river. Fortunately, her family was there to save her.
You, 33 and a native of east China’s Jiangxi Province, developed postpartum depression and was in severe distress due to her disabilities.”She got irritated whenever she saw her baby, and she even tried to suffocate her baby,” You’s husband Zhou Huiyun, also deaf and mute, said in sign language. “The family asked her to calm down, but she was thinking about taking her own life.”Zhou said deaf and mute people cannot communicate like other “normal people,” and that when they have psychological problems, they usually hide inside instead of seeking medical help, which only exacerbated their problems.
To better suit the needs of people like You and her husband, Chinese hospitals are beginning to offer sign language services.
In February, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University launched a sign language registration system, allowing disabled patients to bypass long queues. The hospital exempts the patients from their registration fees and volunteers act as interpreters for them. It is the first hospital in Jiangxi to offer sign language services. Similar services have been launched in Henan Province and Shanghai.
After the program was launched, You was admitted to the Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University hospital.Yang Mingzhi, a volunteer with more than 40 years of experience in sign language interpretation, received You and her husband. Yang helped the couple register and took them through the examination.With Yang’s help, doctor Hu Feihu managed to treat You’s depression. The doctor gave You medicine to soothe her emotions, and communicated with her family.”It takes more time to treat deaf and mute patients, but the process is quite meaningful,” Hu said.
You’s husband Zhou said that after two weeks of treatment, his wife is feeling much better.”Before, she couldn’t sleep well, nor did she feel like eating,” Zhou said in sign language. “We are very grateful to the doctor and volunteers.”
Yang Mingzhi, the sign language volunteer, said the hospital only expected to receive five deaf and mute people every Friday, but each time, more people showed up.”Sometimes there were 20 patients,” said Yang, 58. “Some even came from neighboring provinces.”It takes tremendous courage for the patients to seek medical help in hospitals, according to You’s husband Zhou Huiyun.”Most deaf and mute people keep their discomfort to themselves until they can’t take it anymore, as we can’t read or write, which makes it hard for us to communicate with doctors,” Zhou communicated in sign language.According to Zhou, in the past, whenever they needed to go to the hospital, they had to rely on their parents. “They are getting old, and we cannot bother them all the time.”According to Yang Mingzhi, the sign language volunteer, many deaf and dumb people are scared to go to the hospital for fear of improper communication due to their disability.”I remember a patient who suffered from stomach trouble but did not dare to see the doctor,” Yang recalled. “The patient finally came after our hospital launched the sign language program, and was later diagnosed with severe erosive esophagitis.”
According to a 2018 report, the country has more than 85 million people with disabilities, including more than 20 million deaf and mute people.”Providing voluntary services for deaf and mute people can truly alleviate the medical dilemmas they face,” said Tang Ying, head of the Jiangxi provincial association of the deaf and hard of hearing. “We are in dire need of sign language volunteers like Yang Mingzhi.”The hospital is looking for more volunteers to fill the vacancy.”Deaf and mute people need assistance not only in medical treatment but also employment and other aspects of society,” Tang said. “We hope more people will pay attention to them.”