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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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Page 35:


(Based on reports 1260 and 1261)


Forty-eight days had passed since the doctor had told him that he was ready to leave the hospital. "You're as good as home, Joe," he had said. "Your wife is ready to sign you out. You're perfectly well now. All you need to do is have your interview with the staff -- and out you go!"


He had counted the days since then -- all forty-eight of them. He had continued to work hard at his job (collecting laundry for Building F), but he did want to get home. The delay was getting him down. He was used to getting the run-around by doctors before he got a chance to see them, and he knew that doctors seldom gave a definite, straight-out answer to a patient's question. But he did think a doctor would keep his promise once he had made it.


Such thoughts as these tumbled around in Joe's mind while he waited patiently for someone to unlock the door. He had a big pile of laundry to deliver to the truck outside. In a few minutes, one of the doctors came in, and Joe started to push his laundry cart out while the door was still open. "Come back in here," the doctor ordered. "Get an attendant to open the door if you need to go out." He closed the door in Joe's face.


"Well, if that ain't a treatment! Here I am all ready to go home, and that saw-bones won't even let me out the door -- not even to do a job I've been doing every day for six months."


At last an attendant let Joe out. He deposited his load of laundry and then rang and waited at the same door to get back in. While he waited, the doctor who had just refused to let him out passed by the window. Joe saw him, rang the bell again, and knocked on the door. The doctor looked out the window, saw Joe, and passed on.


Joe shouted, "Damn the doctors!" and kicked at the door. One powerful kick went through the screen.


Instead of going home, Joe was sent back to the violent ward to begin the long journey upward again.


(Based on reports 1136 and 1137)




"Open ward patients often get lost in the hospital. They are assigned to industrial positions, become efficient workers, and frequently bog down into an apathetic acceptance of the situation . . . Emphasis on patient productivity as such should be minimized and replaced on the therapeutic effect which the patient may derive from such work." (6)

(6) ibid.




Attendant Bickle paced up and down by the open door of Ward 28. The routine of the ward was all messed up again. The gang of dairy workers hadn't come in yet, and the ward was supposed to go to supper in just five more minutes.


Bickle simply could not understand why the dairy workers didn't get back on time. He decided he would report it to the director of occupational therapy. The men left the ward at three-thirty every morning, stayed at the farm all day, and were supposed to get back at four-thirty in the afternoon. But as if thirteen hours of work wasn't enough, the dairy boss had taken to keeping them out until supper-time at five. Bickle decided he was going to insist that they get back at four-thirty, or else stay out until after supper. He couldn't be bothered with keeping the door open for them beyond the four-thirty deadline.


He was just about to close the door and let them go without supper when he saw the tired, drooping group of men coming across the field. He leaned out the door and yelled, "Come on, you birds! Make it snappy." Then he leaned inside the door and yelled, "Line up!"


Outside, the eight dairy workers moved their plodding feet a little faster. Inside, the patients stood up and formed a line at the far end of the hall. Every patient on the ward had put in a hard day's work. At the farm, the laundry, the greenhouse, the coal pile, the power-house -- they had all worked long and hard. And today, most of them had been given their "pay" -- one package of tobacco every third day.


As the dairy workers filed by Bickle on their way to the end of the line, each held up a package of ready-made cigarettes. "Extra!" they reported proudly.


Bickle slammed the door, made sure it was locked, pushed past the line, and unlocked the door at the other end of the hall. Down the steps, through the damp passageway and up into the cafeteria, the patients ran, pell-mell, first-come -- first-served.


In two minutes they were all seated; in five they would all be through eating. Bickle looked over the shoulder of one of the dairy workers. This man, he knew, had spent the day filling and moving ten-gallon cans of milk. Now he was gulping down all that was offered for the patients' supper: one bowl of corn-flakes, with just enough milk to dampen a few of the flakes at the bottom of the bowl.


(Based on reports 602 and 700)


Nora had made up her mind. That was quite remarkable in itself, for Nora seldom went so far as to make a decision on her own. She was a big, plodding woman who had earned the reputation of being "the best darn scrubwoman I ever seen," according to the hospital housekeeper. But no one had ever accused her of being a thinker.

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