My Twitter followers will know that at the weekend I had a fight with a cup of tea and lost, resulting in a big burn across my stomach, which was level with the kitchen work surface when the boiling water went flying towards me. Not only did it hit this bit of me, but it also went down my jeans and onto my feet.
I was in pain and in shock and my two brilliant friends who were there at the time sprung into action, yanked all my clothes off and threw me into a cold shower for 20 minutes. It was only after about five minutes of standing in the bathroom looking at my increasingly blistered skin that we realised that I was standing in a cold shower, without clothes on, with two of my best friends staring at me.
At that point, despite the pain, we all burst out laughing and they then left me to the icy water and went and cleaned up the scalding stuff on the kitchen floor.
It soon became apparent though that this was not just a surface burn, so off we pottered to the Minor Injuries Unit. It felt like I had a 100 toy soldiers stabbing me with bayonets in the stomach – it was that kind of repetitive niggling pain.
Randomly, it affected my lipreading abilities – possibly because I couldn't concentrate – so PentHouse and First Ever Flatmate became my ears. They answered all the usual questions then made sure I knew what was going on as a marvellous nurse dressed the burn.
In short, they were amazing. They found me painkillers, they poured me wine, they checked I was still alive in the night when the combination of the former and latter made me fall asleep on one of their husband's shoulders in the car on the way home from dinner.
The next day, I ended up calling in on SuperCathyFragileMystic – who happens to be a brilliant GP. I asked her if she'd help change my burn dressing and she willingly did, while confessing that she'd never changed a dressing before. She also advised me to get a nurse appointment at my local surgery for a new dressing in a few days.
Regular readers will know that my GP surgery is amazingly inaccessible to deaf people. The appointment system is phone only and there's some weird thing where you have to call from 7am to secure an appointment for that day. Not practical for deaf old me.
In the end my boss at work rang about 11am. There were no appointments left.
I then remembered a walk-in centre and looked up my nearest one. It was in a hospital. I did some research and checked that dressings could be changed at walk-in centres and set off. On arrival I asked if I was in the right place. 'We don't do dressing changes here.' I was told bluntly, and was told I needed to be two miles down the road instead.
Gutted, I broke into a jog to make sure I got there in time, as it had shorter opening hours, and arrived, sweaty and out of puff and probably looking far too healthy. The waiting room was empty. I was thrilled. I spoke to a guy and got that glazed look of 'Whatever' when I told him I was deaf. I filled in my form and waited and waited.
The waiting room began to fill up.
I read the sign on the wall that said patients were seen on a first come, first served basis unless it was an emergency. And waited and waited.
I knew that my burn dressing wasn't an emergency but when a lady with a stye on her eye came in 30 minutes after me and was seen 20 minutes later with me still waiting, I began to wonder if I hadn't heard my name being called.
You see, the set up was almost circular. There were doors at all angles. People came out and seemed to mumble a name before disappearing again and I had no idea if they wanted me.
I went up and spoke the the receptionist and asked him where I was in the queue and reiterated my deafness. He said I would be soon.
I waited and waited.
Again, I began to worry I hadn't heard my name so I popped up again and asked him where the nurse I would be seeing would call me from. He pointed this out and I found a chair straight opposite.
Two-and-a-half hours later, I was still waiting. I hadn't read my book the whole time for fear that I wouldn't hear my name and no one would tell me it had been called, I had been sat simply staring at the doors the nurses came out of in the hope that at some point I would lipread my name.
But what that time did give me was the opportunity to think about how utterly appalling the whole experience was. I mean, I told the guy twice I was deaf. I didn't write it on my form because there was no appropriate place to, but he could have passed the information onto the nurse, however he didn't.
There was no other way of knowing that my name was being called. And the earlier palaver of only being able to call my GP for an appointment was also starting to frustrate me even more.
But what can we do to fix this?
One of my marvellous Twitter followers pointed out that they can't put names up on a screen to call them as this is apparently a breach of data protection. But what about a vibrating pager – like the ones you get in food halls that go off when your order is ready so that you can go up and collect it. If it can work in a busy restaurant, surely it could work at a walk-in centre.
Or as another marvellous Twitter follower suggested, what about utilising the text message system that we already have on our phones. I mean I get a text from my hairdresser now reminding me of my appointment, so why couldn't we receive a text alert to say that our name had been called or we were at the front of the queue?
What I want to know is what services are already out there for deaf people in the health service that work? In America, in the UK and wherever else you marvellous readers are. By finding out what works, I may be able to work out what's missing here. Please let me know.
And those of you in the same position as me, please tell me what you'd like. I'd like the NHS to sit up and take notice of deaf people and create a service that is easily accessible, from the GP to consultants, wards to operating theatres but what else? Please let me know.
It occurred to me as I was sat in the waiting room panicking that I hadn't heard my name, that each experience of the NHS makes me want to use it less and less. The difficulty with getting a GP appointment means I don't go when perhaps I should. If others are doing this too and vital symptoms are missed, then couldn't this be the difference between life and death?
Would I not get that mole checked because it meant asking a friend to call for me at 7am? Would I let my Crohn's get to hospitalisation stage because I simply couldn't contact my doctor myself? Quite possibly and that's shocking.
Something has to change. If I can book tables, haircuts and holidays online, why can't I book GP appointments? I know that some practices allow this, but in my borough there is not ONE deaf accessible GP surgery, and there is only ONE that is open early and late enough for me to pop in, in person and make an appointment – and it's not that near where I live.
And if I can get texts and vibrating pagers going off to tell me when my lunch is ready in a restaurant, car is ready for collection and the next bus is coming, why on earth can't the NHS provide this, too.
I know it's a stretched service. I know that people are dying before they get treatment, waiting lists are long and people are underpaid, but all I'm asking is that deaf people are given the same opportunities as everyone else to access and use the NHS. And if that's too much to ask, then I have no idea what the future holds...
However, perhaps if I can gather this information, lobby the right people, raise awareness, tweet, nag and general be the annoying deaf girl that I am, then perhaps we can change things. It'd be amazing. And if you know someone who's already doing this – let me know about them, too.
It's time to take a stand. Who's with me?