May 2019 West London NHS Trust

Meet Carol Puplett. She has been at the Trust for more than eleven years, working as a Learning and Development Administrator at Broadmoor. From the age of five, she had been diagnosed as deaf and relied on hearing aid and lip reading to get through each day. Carol managed fine with her hearing aid and lip reading. Prior to joining the Trust, she worked in insurance for 25 years as an insurance underwriter, and as a mortgage underwriter for eight years. It was not until 2012 that she started noticing her hearing deteriorate. After a routine test, it found her hearing levels dropped by two percent, to a level where she was eligible for a cochlear implant. This requires surgery considered high-risk as it could lead to her being profoundly deaf if unsuccessful. It was something that Carol didn’t want to consider, yet as time went on, the deterioration affected the way she completed daily tasks. For instance, with the increased diversity in the Trust’s workforce, she found it difficult to lip read those who had accents unfamiliar to her, or talk to them on the telephone. In addition, because of advancements in technology, Carol was struggling to contribute to meetings which had people calling from a conference phone. 

Carol PuplettIt took Carol a number of years to open up to her line manager about her struggles and dilemma. At the time, she had only known one person in Broadmoor who was also diagnosed deaf, but he left shortly after her discovery about this. In 2015, Carol and her new line manager, Judith (McNeill) Joyce, established regular 1-2-1 meetings and by using this platform, Carol took the initiative and explained to Judith that if she went ahead with the procedure, it could result in her being away for a lengthy period of time – something she didn’t want to do because she wanted to continue working at the Trust.

Combined with encouragement from her two sons and support from her line manager and members of the Learning & Development team, she decided to have the implant in July 2016. Regardless of what would happen, her job at Broadmoor will be there waiting for her once she returned. So, how did the procedure go? In her own words, “My life has changed totally. It was a complete success. I am much more confident and outgoing. I have been told I smile a lot more and I do not talk so loud. I am a lot more relaxed. I understand most accents and as a result, I do not feel so anxious or stressed. I am happier.”

Although the operation was a success, her line manager felt it was only right to ease Carol back into work. They arranged a temporary administrator to help handle calls until Carol was able to freely do so again and also arranged for “Access to Work” to assess the types of equipment Carol would need, to assist her in carrying out her role. This guidance was followed and reasonable adjustments were made. Her doctors estimated that it could take at least six months for Carol to get used to completing usual tasks such as call handling. Carol’s transformation has been extraordinary. It took just five weeks until she started using the telephone full time again. The main turning point for Carol was when she had her first exchange with her Northern Irish colleague since her procedure. Before, she could not hear a word from him unless she lip read. Today, she can have her back to him and would still hear every word.

After a hearing review in February 2019, the results revealed her hearing is now in the same range as those who can hear normally. “When they told me my hearing was in the same range as normal hearing people I was thrilled – they were words I never thought I would hear. I wouldn’t have been able to go through this process if it wasn’t for the fantastic support I received from my family and peers. I have the confidence to initiate conversation at work and have a lot of banter with others,” Carol concludes.

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They are based in Western Australia and supported by Senses Australia.

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