Living in silence: Richmond’s Club for the Deaf
Since 1947, the club has been a staple for the city’s deaf.
BY NATHAN CUSHING
NOVEMBER 7, 2014
Two cars smashed into the vehicle David Sipple drove in 1989 near the old I-95 toll booth. Sipple was badly hurt.
He recalls paramedics lifting him onto a stretcher and strapping down his head, chest, knees, and feet. They also crossed his arms over his chest like a mummy and fastened them down before rushing him to MCV. In securing the injured motorist, the paramedics unknowingly silenced him.
Sipple is deaf and uses sign language.
His hands confined beneath the straps over his chest, Sipple was wheeled into the ER where a nurse bent over and began speaking to him. Like many deaf people, Sipple doesn’t read lips.1 He had no idea what the nurse was saying.
“I tried to point to my ear, but my hands were tied to my chest,” Sipple said. The nurse shook her head, unable to communicate with what she thought to be an unresponsive patient. She left Sipple alone to wait.
A doctor finally arrived. Again Sipple did his best to motion to his ear. “The doctor just looked at me and yelled into my ear,” he said.
Badly injured, confused, and scared, Sipple kept trying. “I was just trying to explain, to gesture. I couldn’t move my hands. I couldn’t move my head. I was just trying to communicate I was deaf. He just kept yelling in my ear.”
“So I reached up and grabbed [him] and I tried to tell him I was deaf with my voice,” Sipple said. “He was terrified, backed up, and ran off.” Hospital security arrived to take away Sipple, whom they assumed was violent and dangerous. “I could have been taken to the mental health ward,” he said. But before he was wheeled away, an ASL interpreter arrived.