ARTICLE

Silent Doctor

By Makoto Hara

Is it really possible a challenged doctor carry out his job?

Ryuji Imagawa has a congenital hearing deficiency. He was deeply aspired by Japanese comic “Black Jack” in his young age however Medical Practitioners Act set up as “the one with visual impairments, hearing deficiency or speech defect cannot be licensed as a doctor”.
His turning point was legal change in 2001. “Hearing deficiency” was deleted from the article and Mr. Imagawa set out to be a doctor.

Currently, he works for Owase General Hospital in Mie prefecture as a physician and communicates with patients and staff by lip reading. All staff takes off their masks to talk to him. His stethoscope is connected to a smartphone and he checks patient’s condition from wave pattern. Every time he receives in-house call, he dashes to who called him. While he is on duty for a night, he puts a sock over his left hand with a mobile phone and wakes up by vibrating alarm. In case study meeting with his colleagues, he also works with writing but it is still hard to grasp the whole discussion.
However Mr. Imagawa believes he can conquer the barrier with creativity.

During the run riot of Influenza this year, he faced the tough barrier since all patients wore masks. It is very important to avoid patients taking off masks as the flu is contagious. Nurses worked on additional support for Mr. Imagawa for smooth communication.

On the other hand, clear mask is available in the United States where many doctors with hearing deficiency are working. Mr. Imagawa ordered some but it would take a while to get through the custom so he made it by himself for temporary. He cut the center of mask squarely and sticked clear film on it. He implemented this mask with nurses while disaster exercise but gave up its use for heat and fogging. Besides it was obvious he cannot grasp 100% correct information only by clear mask. He explains, “it is necessary to establish the method for tight communication”.

Mr. Imagawa continues his challenge with support and his own creativity.

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