In the late 1940s young Dougie had to travel from his central New South Wales home and spend almost two months in a Sydney hospital. It was a daunting prospect at the age of seven. His parents could only come to visit once a week but they had every faith in the hospital he was in.
Dougie thought differently. In fact he was counting the days till his discharge. One particular nurse called Nurse O’Connell was making his life a misery.
The nature of his illness required Dougie to move as little as possible. But during the weeks he was there, Nurse O’Connell would pinch and punch Dougie repeatedly. He could do nothing but lie there. Since his medication was giving him bruises already, her punching didn’t leave any marks on his body. His skin was very tender and the punches caused him a lot of pain.
The nuns who came in to visit the patients didn’t believe Dougie’s story when they found him in bed crying. Dougie later believed that Nurse O’Connell did it to make him look like a liar in front of them.
On the day Dougie’s parents were coming to pick him up Nurse O’Connell bathed him. This was something she’d never done before. She put him in a bath with not much water and perched a kidney dish of hot water and cotton wool on the edge of the tub. She told him ‘I’m washing away all the germs’ and proceeded to fondle his genitals.
It was a knock at the door that saved him.
Dougie was too scared to tell anyone what had happened. And the abuse has continued to haunt him over the years. He still has recurring dreams. ‘It kept coming back and back. It was just unbelievable.’
He knows the abuse affected his marriage and also made him quite reserved. It’s also made him very protective of his own children.
Much later, Dougie told some of his family what happened but he’s never reported it officially. He’s also been reluctant to have counselling, but told the Commissioner he might give it a try now.