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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Creator: Frank L. Wright, Jr. (author)
Date: 1947
Publisher: National Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9  Figure 10  Figure 11  Figure 12  Figure 13  Figure 14  Figure 15  Figure 16  Figure 17

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"That's right. Dr. Campbell," Attendant Graber replied. "In fact, some of the old women in wheel chairs have never been outside this building since it was opened two years ago."


Dr. Campbell frowned. She had just recently taken over the Women's Senile building, after being in charge of the Admission Ward for several years. The senile building was new and quite well equipped. But in some respects, it was worse than the older buildings. The fact that there was no way to get patients outdoors except by taking them down a flight of stairs was one of the worst features.


"I wish the architects who build mental hospitals had to live in them a while. Imagine constructing a building for old, decrepit patients without a ground level entrance!"


"That's not the worst. Dr. Campbell," Miss Graber suggested. "Do you know how these block floors are supposed to be kept?"


"No, I don't."


"The directions say they should never be wet. You're supposed to wipe them with a damp cloth and wax them frequently. We have a fat chance of doing that with these old women spitting and urinating all over the place!"


(Based on reports 107 and 142)


Mr. Frazer lay in his bed telling himself that he must get up and go to the toilet, he must keep his bed dry, he must try to get back on Ward 62. For three nights he had slept on Ward 70, but he had to get away from it. Only one sheet on his bed, coarse blankets which were dirty from many nights on other patients, the smell of urine and feces, men urinating on the radiators, rats and cockroaches -- he must get back to Ward 62! The attendant had told him it wag easy enough -- just keep his bed dry for a week.


Yes, that was easy enough. At least, it had been during all of Mr. Frazer's last seventy-six years. But for the last month or so, it had been difficult. This cold weather, and sleeping in a dormitory with twenty other men, and being put to bed right after supper, and the distance -- oh, the distance!


Mr. Frazer winced as he recalled that long journey from his back hall room on Ward 62 to the toilet. He remembered every detail of it. How he would awaken in the night, and start building up his courage. How he would finally throw back the covers and shudder as the cold air struck his body. How he would struggle out of bed and, clothed only in his light undershirt, begin the long journey. Ten steps to the door . . . turn right, and thirty steps . . . right again, and seventy-two steps . . . left, and seventy-two more . . . right for twenty-six steps, and turn in to the toilet. At last! Then back again, cold and exhausted. Then repeat, three times, each night.


If only he could have had a urinal near his bed. Or a robe to put on for the journey. Then he might never have undergone the ignominy of that first hot urinal bath, followed by many more, and now a bed in a room where all the patients wet their beds every night, where it was expected of them.


Suddenly the lights flashed on in the dormitory room where Mr. Frazer lay thinking. "All out for the toilet," called the attendant. He went along the closely packed beds and got each patient up in turn. "Whew, what a mess!" he muttered as he routed out the patient next to Mr. Frazer. "Hey, Bill, take this one to the shower room for a scrubbing," he called to his patient-helper.


Mr. Frazer got out of bed and felt the sheets. They were dry. "Good boy," said the attendant. "Go on down and unload now." Mr. Frazer joined the parade of naked, misshapen old men. Some stopped in dark corners of the corridor along the way, but fifteen men crowded into the toilet to use the two stools and two lavatories.


On his way back to bed, Mr. Frazer noticed the attendant and his helper were hanging urine soaked sheets on the radiators to dry. "We haven't enough sheets for the first change tonight, Bill," the attendant was saying, "so I guess we'll be using these again in a couple of hours."


Mr. Frazer stifled a tendency toward nausea and went on to his dormitory. He had some trouble finding his bed, so he counted again -- seventh bed from the door -- but somebody was in it. He yanked the blanket down and struck the patient. "Get out of my bed," he hissed. The other patient hurried out and climbed into the next open bed.


Mr. Frazer looked down at his sheet, and the heart flowed out of him. Right in the middle of his sheet was a big blob of human excrement. He ripped off the sheet and threw it on the water-soaked floor. He climbed into bed between the uncovered mattress and the coarse blanket, determined to make his bed the filthiest in the whole dormitory.


(Based on reports 101, 648, and 676)


Gus wanted to smoke a cigarette. He took the package of his favorite brand, which his wife had brought him yesterday. Then he imagined how it would feel to inhale the blue smoke, then let it slowly drift out of his mouth, then take a deep breath of fresh air, and inhale again. Smoking was a great pleasure for Gus -- or at least it had been until he was put on Ward 10.


On Ward 10, smoking had lost some of its appeal. It wasn't that he enjoyed smoking less, it was just that he had to go through so much to get a smoke. And even then, a cigarette never tasted right because there was no fresh air to contrast it with.

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