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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Page 33:


As Dan was leaving the building that night, the supervisor stopped him in the office. "How does it happen that your report doesn't agree with Mr. Sage's report?" the Supervisor asked.


"I wrote what I saw -- what I think caused the bruises."


"Well, we can't have conflicting reports like that coming in. It puts me in quite an embarrassing position."


"I thought I was supposed to report the accident as it happened. That's what I did."


"Well, it's probably a good thing. Next time. Sage should know better than to hit a patient where the mark can be seen by a nurse."


(Based on reports 920 and 956)


"Good morning, Dr. Brant. I suppose you received the report I sent you yesterday."


The superintendent of the hospital looked blankly at Miss Walker. "Report? What report was that?"


"About those two attendants who attacked and injured a seventy-year-old man on my ward."


"Oh, yes. I got it, all right. Thank you."


"They didn't report up here today, so I suppose you discharged them."


"Well, no, I couldn't do that."


"No, Dr. Brant? I thought that was the penalty for abusive treatment."


"Well, it is -- but if I fired those fellows, I wouldn't get anybody to take their place -- unless it was some drunk in off the street. But I fixed it up all right. I had them transferred to a ward where the patients are strong enough to fight back."


(Based on report 2023)




"There is a type of psychological abuse of mental patients which may be more disastrous than any kind of physical abuse. By this I mean the tactless treatment of the patient, the refusal of small desires and requests, and the abuse of power that is necessarily conferred upon the individual who is in charge of a ward of mental patients." (5)

(5) ibid.




"Mistah Finney, has my newspapah come yet 'dis maw-nin'?"


Big John stood timidly outside the attendant's office. His sightless eyes rolled from side to side. His mighty body towered in the doorway. His big hands rested gently on the back of Peter's wheel-chair.


Big John and Peter were never seen apart. John -- big, black, powerful Negro -- was blind. Peter -- tiny, blonde, paralyzed Swede -- had no legs. Together, they were alive. But apart they were little more than dead -- John entombed in his world of darkness and misunderstanding, Peter in his world of immobility and persecution.


They had one real pleasure in every day -- the morning paper. Big John had a small pension from the government, and he had ordered a paper delivered to the ward for him each morning. As soon as it came -- the papers were always delivered promptly at eight o'clock -- John and Peter liked to retire to a sunny corner of the ward and spend the entire day over its columns. Peter would read every word and describe every illustration. Then Big John would ask questions, and the two friends would talk on and on about what was happening, what would probably happen tomorrow, and why things were turning out as they were.


Big John had asked for his paper three times already that morning. It was nearing noon now, and still he hadn't received it.


"Ah sure would like my papah, Mistah Finney," he said again.


"Get out of here, you blind ape!" shouted the attendant. "Can't you see I'm busy?"


Big John started to move away, but Peter's fingers held the wheel chair still. Peter could see that Mr. Finney was playing solitaire, and that the prized paper was lying on the table. "Give us that paper," he said.


"Why, you sawed-off little shrimp! I'll beat your two-bit brains out!" yelled Finney, leaping out of his chair.


But John had the wheel-chair under way now. Big tears rolled down his ebony cheeks.


"Don' hurt my li'l Pete. Don' hurt my li'l Pete," he pleaded as they fled to the other end of the ward. Peter's palsied arms shook in impotent rage as he guided the chair.


Big John patted Peter's arm. "Don' bothah, Pete. You jus' tell me 'bout Sweden once mo'."


(Based on report 685)


Often it took two weeks to accumulate enough clean clothes to provide a complete change for all the patients on Ward C. In such cases, the patients waited two weeks for a bath. But regardless of how long they waited, bath day when it arrived was a day to be feared.


Mr. Grupp prided himself on the speed with which he bathed and shaved the seventy patients on Ward C. He really had a system. Right after breakfast all the patients were stripped naked, and their clothes were thrown down the chute. Then they were forced to stand in the hall to wait their turn.


As soon as they reached the door to the shower room, they were run into the one shower, allowed to stand there a moment, and then pushed out and handed a towel. About twelve of the dirtiest patients were given a soaping in one tub -- the water remained unchanged, while all twelve were bathed -- and then allowed to rinse in the shower. Any hesitation in following the procedure exactly brought a stinging cuff from one of the worker-patients.


When the patient had about half dried himself, his towel was taken from him, and he was driven into the toilet room. There another patient slopped lather on his face. Then Mr. Grupp himself would take the patient in hand, set him down on the toilet stool, and scrape his face with a safety razor. (After every tenth shave he changed the blade.) The patient's cue that the shave was finished was a sharp slap at the base of his neck and the raucous yell, "Next." A moment was allowed him to rinse off the lather and blood before he was pushed out into the hall again. There he was given ill-fitting clothes. He had been cleaned and groomed for another week -- or more.

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