Karen Gorr's Story Continued...
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.
Fearing her own demise, Karen begged her mother to take her out. When she was 13, Mabel took Karen home for the summer. She told Karen that if she could learn to walk, she could stay home. Karen became determined to achieve her goal of freedom. She learned to walk. Why? Because she was allowed to eat her food slowly, so she gained weight and physical strength.
In the fall of 1950, at the age of 13, Karen was allowed to enter school in the 3rd grade. In 1958, she graduated from high school at the age of 21. Karen graduated from college five years later and went on to get her masters degree in Special Education.
Karen did her teaching internship at the Crippled Children's School and Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the same institution where she had been a resident ten years earlier. At that time Karen was not able to talk about the years she had spent there. Some of the same nurses, teachers and therapists were still there. Ironically, she was now their equal. However, they were extremely unfair and overly-critical of her performance, so Karen decided to apply for a job on the outside.