OC hospital surprises hearing-impaired physical therapist with communicator masks, allowing her to continue working during pandemic

A hearing-impaired physical therapist in Mission Viejo was left speechless when the staff at Mission Hospital's outpatient therapy center surprised her with masks that allowed her to read lips again.
MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (KABC) -- Hearing-impaired physical therapist Susan Adams was left speechless when the staff at Mission Hospital's outpatient therapy center surprised her with clear communicator masks that allowed her to read their lips again.

"I thought, my gosh, I'm not limited. I can communicate. So it was just, I will never forget that moment," she said.

Two months ago, Adams completed her doctorate in physical therapy. She was excited to embark on this new chapter in life, but when face coverings became more permanent, she started to worry.

"I kept thinking, how am I gonna work? Especially after completing my doctorate. Am I not gonna be able to work?" she said.

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The staff at the Mission Viejo hospital tried everything, from voice text to interpreters, but nothing seemed to work, so she went to her boss, Michelle Darrow.

"She goes, I don't know if I'm going to be able to continue to work if I cant read lips. And I'm like, well, we can't let that happen 'cause she's got a ton to offer," Darrow said.

Darrow looked far and wide for professional communicator masks. When she realized they were all backordered, she decided to make them by hand using clear shower curtains.

"Yes, she's hearing impaired, but that shouldn't prevent her from being a therapist," Darrow said.

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"I couldn't believe this opportunity to communicate again. It was just amazing and I had this deep sense of gratitude for her because she made it possible for me to be able to work," Adams said.

Now, each of her patients get one, and she's able to live out her passion seamlessly, which gives her hope for others who are also hearing-impaired.

"It's definitely a difficult time at this time, but if this can be used, then it can be possible," she said.

So far, Darrow has made about 120 of these masks and is already making more.
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