Having just graduated in 1961 from St. Vincent School of Nursing, my first job was as a head nurse on a locked women’s ward in Worcester State Hospital in Worcester, Mass. I had always been interested in human behavior, but this was a baptism by fire.

As the months went on, these strange looking and behaving people started to look less strange to me, and there are several who’s names I still remember, even after 50 years.  

One patient in particular especially touched my heart.  Marjory was a schizophrenic patient who was extremely unkempt. She chain smoked, and her fingers were orange from Nicotine stains. Her clothes were tattered, dirty and smelled bad. She didn’t speak to anyone and had some pretty gross behaviors. One day for no apparent reason, she suddenly lunged across the day room, smashed out a window, grabbed a large shard of glass and began to slash her neck.  

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The licensed practical nurse, the orderly and myself raced to restrain her and stop the bleeding while another LPN called for help.  The patient was in a panic and fought like a wild animal.  Unfortunately for me, she grabbed my hair and wouldn’t let go. At that point I was drenched in blood, and I thought I would lose my hair.

The emergency team arrived, the patient’s life was saved, and I took a shower while the staff took my clothes to the laundry and brought me some clean scrubs. Time went by and eventually Marjory returned to our ward, a little cleaner but still not talking to anyone.  

After two years at that job I getting married, and the patients threw me a bridal shower, which in itself was touching. Most of the gifts were made in occupational therapy. But one stood out from all the rest. An apron made from taters of cloth, primitively sewn together was Marjory’s gift. She never said a word, but that she organized herself enough to create a gift for me truly touched my heart.