I encountered a tsunami of post-op complications following my total knee replacement surgery in August, but am starting to feel a return to my foolish baseline. I received a fascinating email from Anna Pivoras, Executive Director of the Boone County Museum of History in Belvidere, Ill that got me back to thinking about this much neglected blog.
Anna read my posts about Downey VA Hospital because she has an amazing collection of journals from a woman who was a patient at this facility. Janet L. was a college graduate who played the organ for several churches and was very ambitious and active in her community. She joined the Army from 1942-1945 and taught kindergarten after leaving the service. She gave the appearance of being highly functional as she was engaged, had a nice car, and apartment.
After the death of her parents Janet decompensated and was sent to Downey for 3 months in 1967, where "they just wore her out." She became physically ill and was treated and sent back to her ward while still suffering from bouts of nausea. Unfortunately, this was fairly common at Downey. One of my saddest memories is of an elderly man suffering from psychosis as a result of an extended period of time on cardiopulmnary bypass placed in with young psychotic Viet Nam veterans.
The journals from 1971-1974 document a sad and troubled life with paranoid ideation, She chain smokes, a habit of just about every Downey patient because "GI" cigarettes were free and if you had funds, sold for 27 cents in the canteen. She has constant nightmares about shots, needles, hospitals, and psychiatrists.
This sad story awakened my memory of the 2 womens' wards at Downey VA Hospital which were pretty much isolated from the rest of the facility. As soon as I can organize my thoughts, (HA...HA) not an easy task in my shape, I hope to get a post together on this forlorn topic.