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Central Texas clinic staffers find a way to fill hearing-impaired courier’s visits with conversation and joy

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 2:30 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Staff members at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Specialty Clinic-Waco Hillcrest, forced to don face masks in the age of COVID-19, struggled to communicate with a friendly hearing-impaired courier, Tony Granillo, a Med Speed employee who regularly picks up labs at the clinic.

Tony reads lips, but the face masks made that impossible, and for the clinic staff, friendly waves and smiles beneath the masks weren’t enough.

So, the staffers took it on themselves to learn basic American Sign Language, or ASL.

“I think it was important to us because it felt as if together as team that we were able to build a relationship with someone outside just being us,” Medical Assistant Daneta Cade said.

Cade and her coworkers didn’t receive any formal training.

Instead, they turned to the internet to learn how to sign easy words and phrases with which to greet Tony when he arrived.

“As a team we kind of learned different short phrases and kind of I guess you would call it, small talk. That way so we could just say like ‘hello, good morning, how’s your day, have a nice day,’ things like that,” she said.

“We would find videos on YouTube and kind of get together and practice it with each other,” Cade said.

Staffers practiced alone at their desks and signed with one another as they prepared to spring their surprise on Tony.

And Tony, whom the clinic staffers describe as shy, was surprised when he was greeted with words of encouragement, delivered in ASL.

“It meant a lot to us, and I bet him as well to know that people are out there that care to communicate with him,” Cade said.

Tony was so impressed by the staff’s hard work that he’s now serving as a sort of unofficial ASL instructor.

“Now we’ll ask him ‘is this how you say this?’ And he’ll say yes or no or this is how you do this or give us a thumbs up if we’re doing it right,” Cade said.

Tony’s regular stops at the clinic are still silent, but now they are filled with conversation and joy.

“Just to bring that happiness to someone else, it made us feel happy to be together and be a part of that as one.”

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