“I looked down from the observation dome into the operating room. It was empty except for a patient on her back on an operating table. Her ample girth was splayed across the operating table. Retractors had pulled back a large section of exposed flesh perhaps to a depth of four or five inches.”
Hospital Days: A Memoir by Hudson Owen is a fascinating read about the author’s experiences in several notable hospitals in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The book contains raw, emotion filled memories that pull the reader back in time, into the years of the Moon Landing and the Vietnam War. Hudson does not hold back on the details when he talks about his daily life in various hospitals, or about the liberal drug use that was commonplace at the time.
It’s been almost a half a century since those events took place, but the value of those experiences still shines through.
“A man stopped by the long table on the day side. He was middle aged and accompanied by his wife. He was picking up his meds. He looked me straight in the eye and said: “This is the face of madness.” I said nothing”
I have had very little experience with hospitals in my life. I’ve only been admitted a few times for very minor issues. I am also far too young to have had any first hand experience or memories of the 1960s or the 1970s. Because of this, I was very interested in reading this particular memoir.
The read was fascinating. I loved how the author didn’t shy away from mentioning even the most insignificant details of his memories. And while some may consider that useless padding, I felt it added a real layer of interesting authenticity. Similarly, I applaud the author for his uncensored recollections of liberal drug use and the use of underground railways to escape potential legal repercussions due to war resistance.
“I remember those globes because they were the first sight I saw on my first acid trip.”
“Someone from MGH gave me word that the FBI was asking about me there. This was several months since I had refused induction into the Army. I had a late night conversation with a lawyer to see if there was any loophole in my case. Going down in the elevator he said: “Send me a postcard from Montreal.” “It’s too cold there,” I replied.”
The story isn’t what you’d call epic. It’s not what you’d call a grand adventure in life. It’s much more down to earth. It’s about a man trying to get by and find his place in the world. It’s the recollection of daily life that saw him move through many different cities and across two countries.
“These were tough days for me emotionally. I held the keys to the asylum, but the inmates were more secure. They were being shielded from the world. What an enviable position to be in!”
Because our memories tend to have blanks: missing events, names, times – it became quite the addictive read. You could never quite predict what event, what emotion or what characters would appear.
At times it did make the book a bit confusing to read, as certain story-lines ended abruptly or the author admitted to forgetting the details. It really is a shame how much of our own memories may be lost to the passage of time.
The book is well written and flows quite well. There are a few minor grammatical hiccups here and there, but nothing to really hinder the reader.
At the time of this review, the book is priced at $0.99, making it almost a giveaway. At 56 estimated Kindle pages, it is a fairly short read, which makes the price quite appropriate.
A good short read for those looking to read about first hand experiences of hospital work, and life in general, in the 1960s and 1970s. A great many things have changed during the last 40-50 years, while a lot has stayed the same. The past must never be forgotten.
“You know you’ve been there too long when you become a patient. Hospitals are for sick people, and all of it took its toll.”
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