Friday, November 25, 2011

Sign Language

I had a tracheotomy on December 9th, 2009(4 days into the coma) because I still wasn't breathing on my own. I couldn't speak without covering the hole in my neck. Apparently, I'm told, because I have zero memory of this entire period of my life. But I hear it was gross to hear me try to speak(once I was awake).
Without speech, normally communication is really tricky. Luckily, I went to an elementary school, Wilfred Hunt Elementary, with a hard-of-hearing/deaf program. There was an interpreter in each grade, signing everything that was said.
I picked it up, I thought it was uber-cool, and got a couple of American Sign Language dictionaries. I started to learn to sign along to my favourite songs(that's right, sign, not sing). If I'm being totally honest, when I was 14, it was country. Alison Krauss, namely.
I used some sign language with friends in high school, but eventually I started to hang out with people that didn't know any. So I let those skills drift away, so I thought.
I was 28 when I was in the hospital, I will say it had been at least 10 years since using any sign language. I'm told once I was conscious and trying to communicate, I quickly figured out I couldn't speak, so I started signing.
The brain is so cool! My sister, Mallory, was the only one in my family(or Troy's family) that knows some sign language. She knows the alphabet and a few words. She interpreted for me a lot. My family bought a dictionary for at the hospital. My parents good friend, Jo Brown, also helped interpret. Jo has a hearing aid, and her son is deaf, so sign language is something she's experienced in.
Troy learned 'toilet' and 'no'. Key stuff.

Cute story!
One day at the hospital(again, don't remember, but I'm told), I was 'visiting' with Mallory.
I signed, "G", "U", "M". Mallory said, "No Alyx, you can't have any gum."
I replied, signing, "no, you". She had coffee breath and I hate coffee. It was pretty funny!
The nurses and doctors were also limiting my water consumption. I would get a wet sponge to suck on, because they were worried I would choke if given more. Fair enough. My sister tells me I had gotten flowers from my good friends, Sherri and Jeff. Apparently, I feigned wanting to see the flowers up close, so Mallory brought the vase to me. I pretended to sniff the flowers, then proceeded to try to drink the water out of the vase. Mallory took the flowers from me before I could get any! Imagine!
I wish I could remember this stuff.
Even once I could speak, I still used sign language. I sometimes lose words, it's much better now, but for a while it was tough. For whatever reason, I would sign to wait-staff as I was ordering food. Really Alyx?!
For a long time, I had to think about the mechanics of speaking, like how to shape my mouth to make a certain sound for part of the word I was trying to say. It was exhausting. And even though I don't know every sign there is, it still took less energy to finger-spell everything.
Never mind that no one knows sign language! <eye roll> Oh Alyx!
I still use sign language a lot. I've gotten into the habit of replying with "true" and signing it at the same time. It's been a very useful skill and it's so awesome my brain somehow remembered!
As I was building my signing skills again, I was on, and found this amazing sign language guy! Inspiring! Enjoy!
ASL Black Eyed Peas

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