Library Collections: Document: Full Text

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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She unlocked a small, barred room which was entirely empty except for a young girl who lay naked on a torn piece of blanket in the corner. Mrs. Gladwyn seized the nude girl by the hair and gave a sudden pull.


"Come on. Goon-child. It's the bench for you tonight. We've got a customer for your room."


The girl got numbly to her feet and was led off without protest. Mrs. Gladwyn put a wristlet around the girl's wrist and tied her to a long wooden bench. The girl lay down on the bench to spend the night in the middle of the drafty ward hall.


Mrs. Gladwyn got a bath towel, wet it, rolled it, and sneaked up behind the singing, excited Hilda. Quickly she whipped the towel around Hilda's neck, pulled it tight, and began to twist. "Now, me proud wench! To the 'strip' room." Punctuating her words with jerks and twists on the towel, she half pushed, half dragged Hilda to the room just emptied. Once in the room, she gave one final, tighter twist, and let Hilda fall to the floor unconscious.


Mrs. Gladwyn removed Hilda's single garment, took the piece of blanket from the room, slammed and locked the door.


"Now," she said, "I guess we'll have some peace and quiet around here for a while."


(Based on report 976)


Gordon was not very well educated, but he liked to acquire knowledge. That was one reason why he enjoyed his work in the mental hospital. There was so much to learn that was entirely new and different. Yet nobody seemed to know very much -- at least, no one had tried to pass much knowledge on to Gordon.


A psychiatric word-book which he had found in the ward office was his only clue to the jargon of the hospital. Gordon pored over it nearly every night as he worked on Ward 11. Every new word he heard or read, he looked up in his word-book.


Dr. James had used a long, new word that night when he made his rounds, and Gordon looked for it now -- so far without success. He was pretty sure it began with "s," so he decided to go through all the words beginning with "s" and see if he could find it that way. He didn't find what he was looking for, but he did run across another word he had been curious about: "seclusion."


Every night in his ward report he headed one column "in seclusion," and then listed the names of the ten or twelve men who were locked in rooms at the back end of the ward. He read the definition of seclusion:


"Seclusion -- state or fact of being secluded, isolated; a place of isolation, retirement, aloofness or privacy -- prescribed to provide non-stimulating environment to patients."


Gordon was still pondering this definition when he took up his flashlight and made the round of the ward. As usual, he found quite a hub-bub at the back of the ward. Gordon flashed his light into the "seclusion room" where Jones, Finestein, McCarthy and Alcowiecz were kept locked up together. They were fighting again, and it looked as if Finestein was pretty badly hurt.


Gordon banged on the door, told them to quiet down watched Alcowiecz thumb his nose at him, and McCarthy make an obscene gesture, and moved on. He knew it was against regulations to open any of the locked rooms when he was on duty alone at night. He also knew that there was no place else to put the men, even if he did go in and try to separate them. He went back to the office and looked in the word-book again.


When he was writing his report that night, Gordon paused over the heading for the column "in seclusion." He was fundamentally honest, and he wanted his work to be accurate. He reread the definition and decided that it wasn't accurate to say that those men in the back room were in seclusion. There was nothing "isolated" or "private" about them. They were collected -- collected? That began to make sense.


Gordon wrote firmly at the head of the column:


"In Collusion:" And then he listed Jones, Finestein, McCarthy, Alcowiecz, and others.


(Based on report 1272)


Bradley and Stevens, the attendants on Ward D, were preparing a body for the morgue.


"Five days ago, this fellow was up and healthy," Slovene remarked to Bradley. Bradley was the charge attendant.


"Yep. He died pretty young."


"Aren't you worried at all about why he died?"


"Why should I be? We lose lots of patients this way up here."


"But this fellow was only twenty-five years old, and strong as an ox." He hesitated. "That record of sedation you gave him is clear enough evidence of why he died."


Stevens had noted that the patient had been given over 90 grains of sodium phenobarbital in a little more than a hundred hours -- and the record had not mentioned the usual overdose and the additional hyoscine he knew Bradley was in the habit of giving.


"That's nothing against me. The record only shows that I carried out doctor's orders."


It was true that the doctor had left a standing order for 3 grains of sodium phenobarbital every four hours, p.r.n. (when the occasion arises). That left it up to the attendant to give injections whenever he wanted to, so long as it wasn't more frequently than every four hours.

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