top of page

The Preventorium

A Memoir

I am sharing a lost history, not just my own but one that I share with of thousands of other children…a Preventorium Hospital experience. The word I am saying is pre-ven-tor-i-um as in Prevent. I spent fifteen-months at the Mississippi Preventorium hospital for children, arriving as a 6-year-old in 1959 and leaving as a 7-year-old in 1960. These hospitals, once ubiquitous across the U.S., are little-remembered institutions whose sole mission was to protect the physical health of children who were considered at risk for Tuberculosis. For more than 60 years, I have been obsessed with making sense of my experiences in this unique and isolating world that limited contact with my widowed mother to 2 hours every other Sunday. It was a restricted world of rigid, exacting daily routine that erased the individuality of patients. We children managed to create a sense of community while coping with a deep sense of abandonment and loneliness. All children had the same exact haircut, wore only white cotton bloomers, and had extremely routinized days & nights.  We were robbed of our uniqueness and yet, it was our uniqueness that helped us survive, alone and together. Fifteen months may not seem long in the length of a full lifetime span, but a handful of pivotal moments in childhood can shape a life. I remember well my pivotal moments there.

bottom of page