The children were placed in the South Dakota State School and Hospital for the Feebleminded at Redfield. For Karen this began her 10-year battle to leave the institution. For David it would end sooner. When he was 12, he had pneumonia and died during a "black out."
The children went to "school" in the institution five days a week, where they sang songs and did arts and crafts. Karen was lucky. A kind, motherly woman, who was also a patient in the same building, taught all the children to read, print and play Parcheesi.
David was more mature, non-aggressive and quickly learned how to avoid mistreatment. Karen had to fight off illnesses that plagued her frail body, but that was nothing compared to the emotional and physical abuse she endured. At mealtimes, the children were given 15 minutes in which to clean their plates. Karen would get the food down, but often it wouldn't stay down, and she would be beaten by the ward matron with a butter paddle. To prevent Karen from kicking her covers off at night, her bedding was tied under her bed. Sometimes another girl would pour water on Karen's covers to indicate that Karen had wet the bed. This was an "unforgivable" sin to the ward matron, and Karen would be beaten with the butter paddle.
Karen was beaten often. She could not physically defend herself, so she defended herself verbally. Her "big mouth" made matters worse, and made the beatings last longer. Because of her aggressive disposition, Karen was used as a guinea pig by the doctors, who gave her nine Phenobarbital pills a day. After that Karen became a "pet" with most of the ward matrons.