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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf American Prose: 1830-1930
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For the first two or three days I was inert like a log, incapable of turning my head sideways without help, my eyes swollen and bandaged, leaving a narrow slit over the left one, out of which I peeped upon my surroundings. What impressed me forcibly in looking around were the diminutive sizes of the nurses, doctors and everyone else. How shrunken humanity has withered! Was it a policy of this hospital to take on only Lilliputians to take care of giants? But how cute the nurses looked, making me think of and sigh for little May McAvoy, Madge Bellamy, Norma Shearer and Laura la Plante. What would they think of the plight their friend was in? Not until a few days later, when I could raise my head, I began to see it was an illusion caused by the height of all the beds, which is three feet high, creating deceptive perspectives when you are lying flat on your back.

Spectre-like floated the nurses and attendants, the solid cemented floors giving out no vibrations, not the least sound discernible to my deafened ears. Their immaculate white uniforms, topped with dainty toques, intensified their resemblance to gliding ghosts in the dim flickering light of the few electric lamps during the nights. So sweet are their mien that I was attracted rather than repelled. So gentle and soft are their motions, never hurried or flurried, but not one movement wasted in exact administration of help and relief to the patients. The business of being a nurse is one of the noblest and sweetest, a blessing to suffering humanity—a gentle shower of mercy from Heaven. I almost hated the idea of recovering health and leaving this haven of rest and freedom from the worry and turmoil of the outer world. Nevertheless I have one querulous complaint to air. It is the general ignorance among the hearing people of the manual alphabet and signs of the deaf. With extreme difficulties could I make known my wants by writing on a pad, and it was impossible for me to read what they wrote to me—so persistent they were in writing in small, faint characters until my glasses were restored to me—“What,” I asked, “would you do when you have other deaf patients?” They looked puzzled, and promised to learn our language.

I found, later on, that a good many deaf people came to this hospital. There were three while I was there at that time. One is a nice little boy of eight, and it was a great comfort to him when I was taken to him to interpret his wants to the doctor and nurses through the sign language.

I am exceedingly grateful to the many friends, mostly from the movie industry world, for coming to see me and bringing flowers, fruit and no end of dainties. Quite a few of them were my deaf friends. Such visits greatly alleviate sufferings of the patients, both physical and moral.

Half an hour ago the doctor assured me that I can go back home in two days . . . . . . and out into the world with the blazing red streak of Cain on my brow, proclaiming to all mankind the heinous crime committed. . . . . . . . . against Cain.

Los Angeles General Hospital, California, July 20, 1926.

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