The journey begins to reclaim my own origin story.
Last year, I had a bit of a breakdown and went into counseling. While stress was a factor, there were quite a few unresolved issues from my first thirteen years that I needed to face and resolve. If my life was a house, the first thirteen years were rooms that were dark and locked, never to be opened again. Through a great therapist, I realized that I had PTSD from my childhood and that I needed to find ways to accept myself and cope with appropriate mechanisms.
In a nutshell, I spent the first thirteen years in and out of a hospital in New York City and it was time to stop ignoring that this had happened.
I was born with a congenital birth defect of the nose and right eye.
I was considered a miracle baby in that I survived my first three months and my first surgery before I reached a year old. I was also blessed that I had a great pediatrician, Dr. Lynch, who was able to get my mother and I in touch with one of the best pediatric plastic surgeons in New York City, Dr. George F. Crikelair. I would spend the next thirteen years of my life going in and out of Columbia Presbyterian Babies Hospital in New York City’s Washington Heights district. Some visits were a week, some lasted several months. It was a second home for most of my childhood years, from 1967 until about 1975.
For many years, I never talked about that part of my life except in very brief explanations concerning facial scars that run down my nose. In the meanwhile, my mother passed and most of the medical history was lost when my sister decided to clean out my mother’s and her house when she moved. There are a few photos of myself at about 8 with a bandage on my nose, but precious else.
But I am determined to see what I can recover about that part of my life and reclaim the memories and the story of that time. I feel like I have opened a mystery room and the light is now flooding in. While there is trauma related to the past, there is also stories of strength and resilience and children who survived and played out parts of their youth in a hospital ward. I want to leave this story for my children, so they can understand the past and this part of the family history.
I went on Google earth and found the hospital on 165th and Broadway. The lawn and the chapel are still there as I remembered in the center of the
complex. The facade and entry have been modernized, but the art deco towers still remain. Washington Heights seems to have gentrified like most of the City. The photos bring out some familiar landmarks but much has changed.
Columbia Presbyterian has archival records ad I am going to see if beyond hope, mine still exist. I am searching through archival databases for photos that resonate. The journey begins, and I don’t know where it will end, but I will not shut and lock the door on this room again.