NHS Zombie Ward

The chilling story of how 'depressed' women were put to sleep for months in an
NHS hospital room - leaving mental scars that remain 40 years on............

Women with postnatal depression and anorexia passed through Royal Waterloo's infamous Ward 5
They were drugged and subjected to horrendous levels of ECT
Unluckiest were taken to the 'Narcosis Room' and put to sleep for weeks
 
By Barbara Davies for the Daily Mail
 
Published: 21:38 GMT, 7 August 2013 | Updated: 14:13 GMT, 8 August 2013
Survivor: Elizabeth Reed is one of only a handful of women prepared to speak out
‘It’s so easy to dismiss us,’ says Elizabeth, a 63-year-old grandmother and former marketing director from London. ‘It was a long time ago and we were psychiatric patients. Many of  us were left with pieces of our memory missing.
‘We were not drooling maniacs, but if you’ve been put in a sleep room, then your memories are not going to be clear. I lost huge chunk of my past.’
Officially, the Department of Health says it no longer has records of Sargant’s work at the Royal Waterloo, affiliated to London’s St Thomas’s Hospital. However, Elizabeth has a copy of her referral letter from January 1973, stamped with the ominous words: ‘Admit to Ward 5.’ Notes reveal she was given a ‘course of narcosis’.
She had been diagnosed with ‘obsessional neurosis’ and, by her own admission, was very ill — depression compounded by a difficult childhood.
‘But many other women I have spoken to say they were suffering from milder forms of depression and anxiety,’ she says. ‘The treatment was completely out of proportion.’
She was admitted to the Royal Waterloo in spring 1973 when she was 22 and engaged to be married. After arriving on the 22-bed Ward 5, she was sedated and underwent ECT — sometimes every other day.
‘I can remember the sound of the ECT machine being wheeled down the corridor and it being switched on and off in other rooms,’ she says.
‘It was so frightening. First of all, they injected you and you had an awful feeling of falling backwards into yourself. After ECT, you didn’t know who you were.’
There are many horrors that Elizabeth Reed recalls from her time at London’s Royal Waterloo Hospital, but one in particular lingers in her mind.
 
She describes a small, windowless room at the top of the red-brick Edwardian building, just lit by a night lamp on a nurse’s desk.
 
Six beds are jammed together. The deep breathing of women in a drug-induced sleep. The fetid stench of unwashed bodies.
‘It was like being buried alive,’ she says. ‘I was lying there in the dark, hour after hour, and couldn’t move. I wasn’t aware of my body,  just my head in this darkness.
 
You could hear people moving around and other people breathing and moaning.’
 
Treated like guinea pigs: TV footage of a patient having narcosis treatment
 
While Elizabeth is one of only a handful of women prepared to speak out, her story is not unique. Up to 500 women, suffering from conditions such as postnatal depression and anorexia, passed through the Royal Waterloo’s infamous Ward 5 before it shut 40 years ago.
 
Heavily drugged and subjected to horrendous levels of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and even lobotomies, the unluckiest were taken to the 'Narcosis Room', where they were put to sleep for weeks at a time.
 
Almost all teenage girls and women in their early 20s, they were treated as little more than guinea pigs by controversial psychiatrist William Sargant as he conducted a bizarre experiment to ‘repattern’ their brains and cure them of depression.
 
If all this sounds like the stuff of science-fiction horror, it is no coincidence a new psychological thriller, The Sleep Room, by clinical psychologist-turned-novelist F. R. Tallis, draws heavily on Sargant’s scandalous treatments.
 
But behind the fiction, questions remain about why the women of Ward 5 were subjected to such cruelty at an NHS hospital. Two of them, now in their 60s, spoke about their experiences to Femail this week.
Treatment: Heavily drugged and subjected to horrendous levels of electro-convulsive therapy and even lobotomies, the unluckiest were taken to the 'Narcosis Room', where they were put to sleep for weeks at a time.
 
Eventually, Elizabeth was moved into the Narcosis Room beside Ward 5 and put into a drug-induced sleep.
 
Women there were occasionally woken to be taken to the toilet or to be fed. ‘We were like zombies,’ says Elizabeth. ‘I couldn’t walk. I had to be lifted. Afterwards, they put you back to sleep again.
 
‘The worst time was when I started not to be asleep. I was awake, but couldn’t move or speak. It was torture, lying there for hours in the darkness.’
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