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We Committed Our Child

Creator:  A Father (author)
Date: August 1945
Publication: The Rotarian
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 1  Figure 2

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We decided we must look further, in justice to Mary Lou, her brother, ourselves, and the community.


The second possible step -- placing Mary Lou in the home of a friend or relative -- we ruled out immediately. How could we subject the life of another family to a distortion we wanted to avoid in our own?


And thus we came to the doctors' conclusion -- commitment to an institution. The word was abhorrent to us at first, for it denoted a sort of prison in which unfortunates are placed out of society's sight. But as we inquired into the nature of institutions in our State, we found them offering a quality of care average parents would be hard put to provide. They have nursery schools for children capable of profiting by them and elementary schools for those able to go further. Handicraft projects, print shops, repair shops, gardens, and farm work give older patients an opportunity to be useful and happy.


Putting Mary Lou in the care of a private hospital appealed to us more than sending her to one operated by the State, but investigation revealed that the cost would be high, not completely beyond reach, but certainly high enough so that we would be unable to finance the kind of education we would like to give our boy. He, after all, was the child who had the potentialities.


So it was that we decided in favor of a State hospital. Taking Mary Lou to it was a heartbreaking experience, but we were fortified with the conviction that in this move lay the sole hope for happiness for all four of us. And we were greatly heartened by the appearance of the place. It resembled a college campus, with pretty brick buildings set amid sweeping grounds. There were no walls, no guards. Patients strolled, played, or rested outside their homelike cottages. In this community, we saw also, there were no thoughtless neighbors gossiping about the unfortunates and jeering at them and their families.


The reception was kind, almost completely devoid of red tape. The newcomer was regarded as a patient rather than a prisoner, -- and the doctors, nurses -- in fact, the entire personnel -- proved specially trained to bring out whatever abilities he or she might have. The parents were treated as persons who would continue to be interested, who would contribute toward clothing and medical costs, and who would be informed regularly on the condition and progress of the patient.


More than a year has passed since that day. We have kept in close touch with the hospital by mail and telephone and have made the 100-mile trip to visit our daughter at least once a month. The simple routine of good food, sunshine, and fresh air have done wonders for Mary Lou's physical health. She is calmer and again is feeding herself. We still do not know what potentialities Mary Lou possesses, but we feel confident that whatever they are, the skilled, hard-working staff will labor earnestly to develop them.


And so tragedy came into a family that barely knew the word. We think, we pray, we have faced it wisely.

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