Excerpt from “Hanna Pavilion, Cleveland, Autumn 1983”
Suicide ward’s a strange place to make friends; never know how long they’ll last. Past the bend in
the narrow hallway, an institutional sage-green elbow fixed at a right angle, past the plexiglassed
glaze of the nurses’ station, we took turns lighting our cigarettes, our one means left: no butter
knives, no nail files, no pens, no pencils in our rooms alone. One hermit who never left his room
had his underwear taken, after staff discovered a hospital robe’s belt strung around his neck.
Strip-search, the required rite of entry for the many forced to come here or the few who chose.
I had chosen this place, my Resident Advisor during my first college semester spotting
me on my dorm room floor, nearly leaden from an overdose of sleeping pills. The university
hospital seemed a safer place than my family's home, the silence scissoring me alive in a sterile
back room with the door closed by family hands. I needed an end to the simmering burnt umber
of old wounds seeping into November air, crisp as chromatography strips in Chem 101; each
November recalled bitter, ragged ends of eras, the slow sift of childhood ashes, the barren edges
The hallway held a gauzy fog of cigarette smoke hovering and clinging to everything, our
clothes, our hair, our skin. So intent we became on our collective escape, taking turns with the
flaring crimson eye of the wall-mounted lighter blinking and glaring all hours of day and night. A
gang of us chain smoking. That was the way we counted down time here, along with the 30- to
15-minute checks the nurses performed, making sure we were still there, their surveillance
cameras perched in corners of single observation rooms, their audio units winking red lights in
showers and stalls. (Once I hid under my bed, after pasting a crayoned picture full of tiger eyes on
their 9”x11” window cut into my door. What a ruckus followed, borne of my sheer boredom).
Two African American Amazons, Shonda and Tyrese, each with a trail of tic -tac-do
boards razored up forearms; a handful of teenagers: Susan, despondent with her foster home,
Rick, abusing his Ritalin®, Tony, a drug dealer who grieved the fact he sold to kids. One fireman
Josh, under observation after getting caught putting out a fire he started. One crusty African
American husband Bill, who caught and shot his best friend in bed with his wife. A lumbering
pale giant, Joseph, zombied on Haldol® for his schizophrenia, told me a poem once, “They threw
a dog in the ocean. It became a dogfish. They threw a cat in the water, a catfish. A human in the
Other days, he could barely open his eyes, shuffling from his chemical shackle. Nurses
feared his size, requiring 3 staff to restrain him if he decompensated and had a psychotic break.
Of the handful of seniors who could not wait for death to kindly stop for them, one of
them was a newcomer, a gentlemen dressed in tweeds among us, blue jeaned, t-shirted, or
hospital-gowned; he sat beside me in the smoking row, though he never lit up himself.
“My name's Joe. Would you mind if I asked where you’re from? Could I tell you a
“Sure, we got nothing but time here until OT, you know, occupational therapy at 9.
Lunch at 11:30. I’m originally from Korea, immigrated when I was 3,” I answered between pulls
“Thought you might be Japanese American; you remind me of a lady named Sachiko,
back at camp. See, I was a guard at one of those internment camps--that’s how I served my
country, guarding old men, women, and kids. Families. There were some young men there, but
most of them volunteered to enlist already or joined up straight out of camp. Good people they
were, real good people.” His voice cracked and his eyes reddened, filling with sudden tears, while
mine filled with growing curiosity and shock--I looked away to give him a moment, put out my
cigarette, letting a pause stretch between us.
“Yeah, that’s right." He cleared his throat, and placed his hands on his knees. "Half of us
guards were in love with her, half of the internees, too. She taught ikebana
kids, I’m sure you know, flower arranging and paper folding? The old Japanese men farmed that
land, farmed that dustbowl crap land, into a garden of flowers and vegetables. They irrigated
during 90 degree weather so she could teach their kids, and they could have fresh vegetables.” He
began rocking gently, back and forth in his chair, keeping time with the memory.
“After Sammy came to camp—oh, folks still don’t know about this. Bob Hope did his
tour overseas, but Sammy gave us hope back home on the home front. I never was a big fan of
'Mr. Candyman,' that silly, sappy song, ‘til he came through and did a show for us. What a good
man, a really nic e man. A true human being." Joe turned his face away, as tears began to fall.
CURRICULUM VITAE Dr David Goodenough MA, MB, BChir, MRCP(UK), FFAEM CONTENTS PERSONAL DETAILS President of British Accident & Emergency Trainees Association Fel ow of the Faculty of Accident & Emergency Medicine Member of the British Association for Accident & Emergency Medicine EDUCATION University Clinical School Post Registration Qualific
Medication Tips • Make sure you understand what the medication is for, when to administer it, and when to give it again if regurgitated or dosage is missed. Also, note if the medication is to be given on an empty stomach, or after a meal. • Ask if there are any over-the-counter medications that should not be taken with this medicine to • Make sure you know how best to store each