Nowadays we might imagine that severing the connection between the front of the brain and the deeper brain structures, for any reason, is not unlike trying to fix a spaceship with a chainsaw. But in the 1940s, with few effective drugs to control mental disorders, frontal lobotomy was commonplace. Severely disturbed patients with a variety of mental illnesses were found to become generally more pliable as a result of this operation. Any collateral damage in terms of personality change or physical disability was felt to be outweighed by the benefit of making patients easier to nurse. It didn’t always work to anyone’s good. This is a story about Albert Fos, who was 68 in 1947.
“Nurse! I’ve wet my bed again. Sorry.”
Here she comes, stupid cow. She can’t tell Albert does it on purpose.
“Oh Albert! Come and sit in this chair. Here: put this blanket over you while I change the bed. There: I’ll just wash you down and change your pyjamas.”
Oh yes, Albert likes being washed down. Albert doesn’t want the electric so Albert doesn’t tell about the voices. They thought the operation would make them go away but it didn’t. The voices hide now and Albert helps them. That man over there, Thomas something: he gets the electric if he shouts too much. Albert watches and waits.
“Thank you Nurse. I’m just a silly old man. I’m a bit lost at times but I don’t mean any harm.”
“Of course you don’t Albert. Now let’s get you dry and into clean pyjamas before the doctor comes.”
Here comes Doctor Salmon. He stands at the end of the bed and talks to the nurses. Makes a note and moves on. Albert needs to get him closer. The syringe is hidden inside the pillow. The voices tell Albert to keep it secret. Nurse Owens missed its disappearance when she was called away. It’s full of some stuff.
“Good Morning Nurse, what a beautiful smile you have. It’s a tonic for an old man like me.”
“Thank you Albert.”
Went to the toilet like a good boy. Took the syringe and on the way past stuck it in Thomas’s bum and squeezed it empty. Left it under his bed. Nobody saw.
Thomas is ill. Nurse is in trouble. Matron has inspected the ward.
“Good morning Albert. Medicine time. Just swallow these with some water. Very good. Now open your mouth and show me. That’s it.”
Albert put the pills under his tongue and pretended to swallow. Got ten now.
One of the voices – Archie – said to keep them.
Twelve pills now. Mashed them with a spoon in my bowl and saved them in a bit of paper.
Went to the toilet at dinner and Albert emptied the paper into Bernard’s pudding. Archie was pleased.
“Good morning Nurse. What’s happened to Bernard?”
“Bernard’s gone away Albert.”
Bernard gone. Haha. Lord Wrath says it’d time to wet the bed again, or worse.
Doctor asks about voices. How does he know? Albert says, “No.”
Voices say to hurt the doctor. Albert listens to Archie, Lord Wrath and Nicodemus. They say to get a knife.
Albert follows Doctor Salmon to where he goes. Nurses come. Straightjacket.
Syringe. Try to bite nurse, doctor, anyone. Taken for another operation.
Feel nothing. Day passes. Sleep.
Feel nothing. Day passes. Sleep.
Albert Fos. Born 22.08.1879 Spent most of his adult life in asylums for the insane, having attempted to murder his parents and elder brother when he was just 22 years old. He was diagnosed as having severe schizophrenia with psychotic and psychopathic tendencies. His first, partial, lobotomy in February 1947 was felt to be only partly successful. Albert underwent a second operation in July of that year and lived peacefully until his death on 31st March 1953.