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Local man shares fight for disabled patients' rights in hospital settlement

Blake Warner and his wife, Kelly, say during his initial spinal surgery, the hospital left them on their own at his discharge and during other critical moments of his care. (Photo: KOMO News)

BURIEN, Wash. – The man who won a big victory for all disabled people is sharing his concerns over Highline Hospital, and how he believes the medical facility failed to give him the same access to health care that it gives to other patients.

It's been three years since Blake Warner underwent spinal surgery at the medical facility in Burien, and the memory still pains him.

“I had no idea what was happening,” Warner said.

Warner and his wife, Kelly, are both deaf, so they worked hard to make sure Highline Hospital had a sign language interpreter available to help them through this medical procedure.

But Warner and his wife say during his initial surgery, the hospital left them on their own at his discharge and during other critical moments of his care.

“It's very stressful so we wanted to make sure that communication is very clear between the doctors, the nurses, him and me,” Kelly Warner said.

A follow-up surgery went much more smoothly, as an interpreter helped Warner understand doctors' post-operation instructions. Still, the couple decided to challenge the hospital to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Earlier this month, the hospital agreed to pay $35,000 to the couple, as well as a $10,000 fine to the federal government.

“We continue to receive complaints of this kind,” said Christina Fogg with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We've received some as recently as in the last month."

Warner and his wife said the lack of interpreter made an already stressful surgery so much worse. They believe getting equal care is an ongoing challenge for other patients with disabilities.

“I've heard of many local hospitals going through the same thing, not accommodating the deaf,” said Kelly Warner.

Federal prosecutors said they've gotten so many complaints from patients who are hard-of-hearing that they sent a letter to all local hospitals reminding them of the requirements under the ADA.

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