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The Hospital: How I survived the secret child experiments at Aston Hall (English Edition) Kindle-editie
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I have been trying to write my own memoir since 1975. So far, I haven't been able to get past the first few chapters, because the pain of remembering is just too overwhelming.
But Barbara O'Hare has done it! And she has told her story so well, with such depth and clarity, that it's almost as if you are right there with her, living in her shoes.
State Hospital No. 3, Nevada, Missouri, was the name of the institution where I spent the longest two years of my life. Built in the late 1800s, it was the largest building in the state at the time of its construction, more than a mile in circumference. While I was there, it was packed to overflowing with unwanted children and society's rejects. This institution was closed and torn down in the 1990s. Three years ago, my husband and I took a drive there. Standing on the empty, park-like grounds where the massive, imposing institution used to be, felt very surreal!
Shortly after I was put in the mental hospital in early 1968, I asked the ward psychiatrist how soon I would be able to go home. He coldly informed me that according to the statistics, 97% of the people admitted to that institution were never released. "If you're here past one year, the odds of you ever getting out of this place alive will go down to less than 1%," he added. "So if you want to have a life, you need to hurry up and make yourself well. WE can't make you well, only YOU can do that."
He must have seen a look of shocked disbelief on my face, because he told me to ask the other patients on the ward how long they had been there, if I doubted what he said. I did ask, and the shortest answer I remember hearing was eight years, the average, more than twenty years. I wasn't yet old enough to drive a car, and my life was effectively over.
I did not know how to “make myself well,” so I did the only thing I could do – I ran away. I was quickly caught, brought back, and punished with solitary confinement. In solitary, I was strapped down to a metal cot with padlocked belts that went around my waist, looped over my wrists, and encircled my ankles. They did not use strait jackets while I was there, they used these leather-wrapped steel belts, instead. I have no idea which would be worse.
I ran away several more times, whenever I saw a chance to run. The last time I ran, I was gone overnight and my escape was reported on the news. When I was found and brought back that time, the administrator of the hospital came and cursed me out. Then he ordered me to be put on the maximum security ward, where they kept the criminally insane. This was where I spent the majority of my time in that “hospital.”
The doctor who was the head of maximum security, was also fond of using the “truth serum” drug that Barbara O'Hare writes about in her memoir. This psychiatrist was a rapist. He was caught and arrested, the last time he abused me, because I almost died that time, possibly because he had given me too much of the drug, or maybe because I had developed an allergy to it. (I am deathly allergic to several drugs.) One of the nurses heard me “screaming bloody murder,” as she later told me, but she could not get into the doctor's locked office, where he was in the act of molesting me. As she tried to unlock the door, he called to her through the door and told her that I was under hypnosis, reliving a terrible trauma. (I have no memory of screaming and no memory of the nurse trying to get in. I only remember bits and pieces of what that evil man did to me, but what I remember is enough.)
After the doctor was finished with me, he woke me and told me to go back to the ward. He tried to get me to kiss him before I left, and I refused to do it. Then he told me that I would “never be well” until I stopped denying what I “really wanted.” This was the last thing he ever said to me. (I was fifteen! I was his patient! He was almost fifty, married, with grown children! I DID NOT WANT IT!!)
I remember feeling like I was floating up out of my body, as I walked back to the ward. Suddenly, I collapsed on the floor. Two nurses found me without a pulse. They somehow got me breathing again, and then they walked me back and forth between them, up and down the long hallway, for what seemed like an hour or more, until the drug was out of my system enough that I could ask to go to the restroom. One of the nurses accompanied me to the toilet, because I was still very wobbly. When I pulled down my underwear, she could see by the condition of my underpants that I had been raped. She went out into the hall and called the other nurse to come and look. Then these two angels of mercy reported everything to the police.
Two plain clothes detectives came by to question me the next day. They also questioned others who had previously accused this psychiatrist of raping or molesting them. Many patients had tried to report these things, but no one had believed us, until the nurses saw the aftermath of what had been done to me. (I had also previously reported to a nurse that the doctor was sexually molesting me, but I was not believed. When the abusive doctor was told about it, he wrote in my chart that I was a “pathological liar.”)
One of the nurses told me that when the police searched the psychiatrist's office they found, locked in his desk, tape recordings that he had made of his multiple rapes, of both female and male patients. The psychiatrist was arrested. A few years after this, I learned that the evil psychiatrist had committed suicide.
It's hard to believe these things, isn't it? Hard to believe that a medical doctor, who is supposed to HELP people, would drug and rape his patients. People don't like to believe the “mentally ill” when we try to tell how we were abused. That's what makes us the perfect victims.
Almost half a century has passed since I was set free from the asylum. Back when I was a patient there, a lot of people believed in creating a better race of people through eugenics. It was widely believed that the “mentally ill” should never have children, because we presumably have defective genes. I have had three children. My oldest son manages two motels in California. My daughter is currently attending a university, working toward a masters and then a doctorate in psychology. Her own daughter, my eldest granddaughter, will graduate this fall from the anthropology program at Harvard. And my youngest son earns enough money selling jewelry that he recently bought a beautiful home with an in-ground pool.
As for me, about twenty years ago, after all my children were grown, I went to nursing school and was elected class president. A year and a half after graduating as an LPN, I published a novel. In May 2000 I was on the Oprah Winfrey Show, featured in one of her inspirational “Remembering Your Spirit” segments.
I have done all of these things and more, but I still have not finished my memoir. Yet Barbara O'Hare has done it. I highly recommend her book, THE HOSPITAL. And NOW, Lord willing, I am going to follow in her inspirational footsteps and finish my memoir at long last!
Thank you, Barbara O'Hare! You are an AWESOME SURVIVOR!!!!
PS: I know this lengthy review does not say a lot about the book I'm reviewing. The reason is because I don't want to give any of the story away. I am telling here about some similar things that I've lived through, to validate Barbara's story. My experiences were different, but similar enough, that I absolutely believe THE HOSPITAL is completely true.
Also, I have attached two pictures. One is a scan of a 100 year old postcard that I bought on eBay several years ago, of the mental institution where I was incarcerated in the late 1960s. (The words stamped on the front of that picture were original to the postcard.) The other picture is me, with our sweet old Cattle Dog, Lady, standing where the asylum used to be. That picture was taken in May 2014. I am standing, as near as I could figure it, to the spot where the maximum security ward was located, where I was incarcerated almost half a century ago.
Read this book, it's very empowering
A natural born writer as well