The Whitestone Expressway arcs toward the left after passing Citi Field and a few miles away, not far from the gray pastel exhaust of jet engines that rise from LaGuardia Airport, there is an undistinguished looking nursing home for individuals in need of continuous care. You enter the nursing home and there is pale blue light that leads you up drab corridors that house some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers. Once inside, you pass tightly drawn rooms shared by pairs of aging roommates; lounges where individuals can congregate with other nursing home neighbors; and many pockets of meeting places where residents sit side by side and speak in metal and green vinyl wheelchairs.
If you continue to walk toward the back of the nursing home, you will reach a corridor where, off to the right, Anna lives. Anna has been in this nursing home for over three years. Once animated and active, Anna sits still in a chair next to her bed now, having suffered a devastating stroke that effected the right side of her body. Anna is deaf; she still understands American Sign Language, as her mind is active; but she mostly signs these days with her left hand, which is challenging as ASL often requires the choreography of two hands in lyrical motion.
Anna is alone in her nursing home. Although her husband
faithfully visits, when he leaves, Anna is locked out of conversation. There,
no one communicates using ASL-neither residents nor staff-and the nursing home
refuses to provide Anna with accommodations that will open wide her access to
language: ASL interpreters. For Anna, her deep disconnection from her nursing
home hearing neighbors evokes sadness because it is nearly impossible for Anna
to engage friends and cultivate company.
Shortly, we will begin the process of seeking to
insure that Anna receives access to interpreters for her medical care and daily
discourse. We hope to bring Anna home, not to the place where her husband
lives, but to a place in her heart where she can be fully engaged as a member
of her community.