After spending 30 years as a psychiatric nurse at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, local Author, Kevin O’Hara has an extensive collection of anecdotes from this experience to share. 

In this digital exclusive, he reads some excerpts from his book Ins and Outs of a Locked Ward that gives us a glimpse of what it was like for him working in the mental health field. 

Learn more about Kevin O’Hara and his memoir in our full feature interview with the author.  

Read the full transcript:

Kevin O’Hara, Author: So, this is my book, “Ins and Outs of a Locked Ward.” I was going to call it “Memoirs of a Bearded Nurse,” but many nurses didn’t care for that title, so I kind of put that to one side. But my dear friend Mark Jaffe came up with the title “Ins and Outs of a Locked Ward,” which seems nice.

But I’ll read two quick little excerpts from the book. The first one takes place on our floor. We got a call from a nursing home. They were going to give us a patient who hadn’t had a bath or shower in ten years. He was an elderly man. And it was our job — we had ten days to get him into the shower or bath, or he would be ours for keeps because the nursing home wouldn’t take them back.

So anyways, this is what he looked like when he came to the floor. He had his reasons and it was a great, successful story. But this is how he came to our floor.

The hospital gurney rolled through our doors at high noon, carrying a grizzled, toothless little gent who peeked out from beneath the blanket like a frightened sparrow. His skin was stained the color of mahogany and dark layers of grime circled his neck and painted his forehead and cheekbones. His right eyelid drooped like a broken window blind, and his nose bulged like a potato. His thin arms, bared to the elbows, looked like strips of beef jerky.

Once we got him off the stretcher, he walked with a wobble, as if punch drunk, or maybe he had rickets as a kid. He had little body odor, true enough, but his worn shirt and stained pants stank of urine and mildew. All told, Stanislaw Crystalowich was the strangest little dude who ever graced our unit. And that’s saying a mouthful.

So — so that’s one. And– and this one takes place at our courtyard. We had a nice little courtyard, it’s half the size of a tennis court, high picket walls, the morning glories, I mean, everything. Very comfortable, actually, and patients really enjoyed their time out there and so did nursing staff like Nurse Lite.

So anyways, I’m talking now about the courtyard.

We also have hummingbirds that visit our morning glories and plenty of butterflies. One morning, a patient named Marty told us how he and his friends left their office one day for lunch. On the way they encountered a panhandler who made the odd request for $0.88.

Marty’s companions brushed right by him, but Marty emptied out his pockets of loose change and was astonished to see he’d given him three quarters, one dime, and three pennies. Exactly $0.88. Just as Marty finished telling us this improbable tale, a monarch butterfly landed on his giving hand, as if to validate the tale.