Highland View

Above is an aerial view of Highland View Hospital in Warrensville Township, Ohio circa 1965. For a number of years, my mother worked there as an occupational therapy assistant; and I spent several summers in high school as a volunteer in the occupational and physical therapy departments.

At the time I volunteered there, I thought of Highland View as a hospital for the terminally ill, because most of the patients were seriously ill. The average length of stay per patient was 67 days. I don’t have any statistics about what percent of patients died there vs. were released.

As a volunteer for occupational therapy, I helped bring bed- and wheelchair-ridden patients from their rooms to an auditorium where a visiting volunteer named Harry Zasz screened movies from a 16mm projector onto a screen. After the show, I helped take the patients back to their rooms. The movies were standard Hollywood fare: I remember Pocketful of Miracles (1961) and Seventh Cavalry (1956) as two films that were shown several times over the years.

I remember one ambulatory patient who had a very visible dent one or two inches deep in his forehead.

Probably what impressed me was something that happened toward the end of my volunteer gig. I played chess with an elderly Puerto Rican patient named Manuel. I was proud to have defeated him, but chagrined to find he had passed away that night. So much for triumph!

Later, my mother moved on to Saint Vincent Charity Hospital near downtown Cleveland. I had a very short stint there as a volunteer in surgery. First they had been clean up a very bloody operating room after a surgery. Then they had me shave around the genitals of a man scheduled to have a hernia operation. I just didn’t have the stomach for surgery and didn’t go back.

Incidentally, Saint Vincent Charity was the hospital that appeared in Billy Wilder’s film The Fortune Cookie (1966) with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. My Mom appeared in one shot, but the scene didn’t make it into the final cut.