Laurie Barkin reads from her celebrated book, “The Comfort Garden.”

On December 6th, the Community Wellness Center, hosted a book reading by former SFGH psychiatric nurse, Laurie Barkin. Nearly 60 staff and patients from SFGH and beyond came out to hear Laurie read from her powerful book, The Healing Garden. In the reading, Laurie shared stories of her experience as an nurse here for five years in the 1990’s. The audience, largely comprised of SFGH staff, reacted with horror, anger, and sadness as Laurie described meeting with a young woman who ran away from home with a friend when she was just 11 years old and connected with an abusive older man who gave her drugs (or “hugs,” as she called them) and became her pimp. When she fell in love with another man and tried to leave her pimp, he stabbed her in the back, leaving her a paraplegic. Many in the audience felt rage as the story continued with the young woman questioning why medi-cal would rather pay for her repeated hospitalizations for pressure ulcers rather than pay for a special bed that would prevent the condition. Laurie concluded the discussion by soliciting suggestions from the audience for self-care strategies useful in dealing with the unremitting trauma to which SFGH staff are exposed. Strategies included lighting a candle and having a quiet moment before leaving for work, regular exercise, and debriefing with colleagues. Laurie remained in the Community Wellness Center for a meeting with providers and staff working to develop a comprehensive program for dealing with the vicarious trauma.

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