Saturday, April 2, 2022

I Had The Stew Beat Out Of Me at Downey VA Hospital and All I Got Was This Lousy Letter!


         Veterans Administration Hospital
                 Downey, Illinois 60064

              December 4, 1974                                  

Mr. Old Fool R.N.
Nursing Service  118

Dear Mr. Fool:

I am sorry to learn of the injury you sustained from a patient's assault. It is regrettable this incident occurred and I am hopeful you have recovered by this time.

I am aware that working in a hospital such as ours must be conditioned with a recognized possibility of occasional physical and verbal acting out by patients. Due to the nature of some illnesses, certain patients periodically lose control of their emotions. It is only through the contribution of such as you that the hospital is able to help these patients through their difficult periods and eventually restore them to a fulfilling life in the community.

Although you have a positive responsibility to protect and conserve all Federal property, including equipment, supplies, and other equipment entrusted to you, personal remuneration for the broken window you were thrown through will be waived,

I want to personally thank you for your assistance as part of the hospital team in carrying out out mission of service to veterans under our care.

                                                                                     Sincerely yours,

                                                                                      Paul K. Kennedy
                                                                                       Hospital Director

Post script: The VA system has changed quite a bit since this letter was delivered to my mailbox in Building 66 at Downey VA. The official VA seal was updated to replace the anchor and rifle scene with a hodgepodge of images including flags, an eagle, gold cord, and five stars. I think I like the old school seal lots better. There is something to be said for simplicity.

Patient assaults on staff were so common at Downey that a slew of these letters were written. The VA has subsequently ceased apologizing for assaults to limit their liability. In the 1970s, not a soul would even think about litigation, especially against one's employer. Times have changed.

If you're interested in the gory details of the assault here is the link; 


  1. Nice they didn't charge you for the window. Very generous of them. It's like not being publicly drunk until they throw you out out into the street. Then its public. Bad analogy.
    And from your 2015 entry, I have never known the Feds to have any sense of humor. Or so I have heard. ;)

  2. I like your analogy, Jono. Downey was a difficult place to work, but the level of audacity on the administrative end was the real killer. I was young and foolish at the time; got beat up Friday and went back to work Monday right after being released from the hospital.

  3. The uproar in our department if an incident like this had occurred would be much louder and very different from your facility...yet similar in that nothing much changes overall. We actually had a nurse get stabbed by a psych patient a few months ago. She's okay physically, but it could have been much worse. There was a hospital-wide safety meeting, lots of blustering, and an added off-duty officer to the ER. Otherwise...not a single policy change. At all. Very disheartening, as I imagine it was for you too.

  4. Although the above incident happened almost 48 years ago, I doubt things have changed all that much. A recent incident occurred at the main psych facility here in Pittsburgh (Western Psych) and the administrators soon scheduled a press conference where they mainly just boasted about how they were the premier psych hospital between New York and Chicago!