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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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Four weeks later, the whole unpleasantness came to an end when Dubinsky died. His illness was simply labelled "Diarrhea."


(Based on reports 773 and 790)


An ambulance from the nearby city swept up to the state hospital and unloaded a weak, helpless patient. Since the admission and commitment had been taken care of in town, the attendant on duty and a worker patient simply put the patient to bed, without even taking his temperature. Twelve hours later the patient died. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be spinal meningitis, complicated by pneumonia.


Eight days later, George, the patient who had assisted in receiving this case, complained to Mr. Evans of a headache. Evans took George's temperature and found it to be 103.


"You'd better go in and lie down," Evans suggested. "I'll call the doctor, and we'll see what's wrong with you."


The doctor listened to Evans' telephoned report of the case and suggested, "Give him some aspirin and check his temperature every four hours." These directions were followed through the afternoon and until the night attendant came on duty.


"I'm afraid you won't have George to help you tonight, Lewis," Evans informed the night man.


"Gee, I'll miss him. What's the trouble?"


"He has a high temperature and seems pretty sick. I really think he ought to see a doctor, but I haven't been able to get one around here yet."


"Who's been on duty?" Lewis asked.


"Doctor Dutton, I guess."


"Oh, he's hard to get excited about anything. I reported a temperature of 105 to him one night and he said, "Call me when the patient expires!'"


"That's him, all right."


"Well, I'll keep trying anyway," Lewis said. "George is a good fellow, and he ought to get good care."


"Yes, since he had fever treatment he's come back to normal in a hurry. Well, I hope you get a doctor."


Lewis tried every half hour to reach the night supervisor in order to get a doctor. He was unable to get an answer at any time. About nine-thirty, the supervisor came to the ward, and Lewis made his report.


"If his temperature hasn't gone up, and if a doctor prescribed for him by phone, we won't bother the doctor again," the supervisor said. Lewis accepted the decision, but just before six a. m. he called the doctor directly and explained the situation.


Dr. Medor came to the ward immediately and diagnosed the case as meningitis.


George died five days later.


(Based on reports 832 and 1160)


The death of Mrs. Goodwin under circumstances remarkably similar to three other recent deaths finally brought reform to Gladstone Hospital.


The facts in the case were simple enough. Mrs. Goodwin had been in the hospital for many years, and on the infirmary ward for several months. During the last months, she had coughed a great deal, lost weight, had a disagreeable discharge from mouth and nose, and had a continuously elevated temperature, rising higher in the afternoon and evening. She slept and lived in a big dormitory with fourteen other sick patients. She grew steadily weaker, died, and her death was recorded as "death from arteriosclerosis," until an autopsy showed her lungs to have been almost entirely consumed by tuberculosis.


Then Dr. Camp got busy on the case. He pointed out that there had been no attempt to discover tubercular suspects for five years; that known cases were confined on wards with uninfected persons; that dishes used by tuberculosis patients were all separated or specially disinfected. When he found that patients from other wards were being brought to the T.B. ward to spend the night because of crowded conditions, Dr. Camp threatened an investigation and got action.


In the following weeks, twenty-one cases of active tuberculosis were discovered among the patients on eight of the women's wards. These were put together on a special ward where strict isolation practice was instituted. The survey was continued, and new admissions to the hospital were given chest X-rays.


Dr. Camp was on the trail of a killer -- one which the state itself had harbored in its own institution. He refused to give up until he had the killer cornered and confined.


(Based on report 771)


"It ought to be a joy to get reports from a lab like this," remarked Dr. Flemming. He was a recent addition to the hospital staff, and Dr. Struboni was showing him around. The laboratory was small, but exceptionally well equipped.


"They've got the equipment all right. But I doubt if you'll have much use for their reports."


"Oh, I'll use them, all right. You men in psychiatry may not have much use for lab reports, but my work in the infirmary will call for plenty."


"You still may not have much use for the reports. The old hen that runs the place is likely to send up a diagnosis of gonorrhea on an eighty-year old woman who hasn't seen a man in ten years. She can't tell one germ from another."


Dr. Flemming laughed at the joke and continued with the tour of the hospital.


A few weeks later, he had occasion to call up the laboratory physician. Dr. Patterson. He found that tests on uncontrolled diabetics were being made only once a week, whereas he needed them at least every day to achieve control. Dr. Patterson just about raised the roof at his suggestion of such frequent tests. "Listen here, Dr. Flemming. Don't think a young upstart like you can come in here and tell me how to run this laboratory. We do blood chemistries once a week -- on Tuesdays -- and you'll have to get along with that."

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