Glenn Dale Hospital Washington's facility for the chronically ill and disabled in rural Prince George's County, is one of the last places where military among patients might be expected.
Strokes, crippling injuries and terminal diseases have made patients who come there invalids for life. Those who are not totally bedridden spend their days in various ststes of oblivion, sitting in wheelchairs along the institution's hallways. Many of them are aphasic - unable to speak or comprehend words.
But Alvin Dubose, 23, and his roommate, John R. Harris, 19, are exceptions among the hospital's 400 patients.
Both paralyzed by spinal cord injuries from gunshot wounds, Dubose and Harris represent a few outspoken Glenn Dale patients who are demanding better treatment and training to accelerate their exit from the hospital.
"I feel like I'm wasting my time, sitting here, addicted to television, not learning anything to get me back on my own," said Debose, who is paralegic.
Harris, a quadraplegic, complained that city officials ignore Glenn Dale and its patient's needs. "They need to come out and see what it's like here," he said. "We're not even on the map."
The Department of Human Resources, which runs Glenn Dale, had proposed moving the patients into the Metropolitan Hotel to provide a modern rehabilitative hospital that gave patients access to downtown. DHR officials had estimated it would cost $8 million to transform the Metropolitan into a chronic case facility and $23 million to renovate Glenn Dale to bring it up to modern fire and safety standards. Congress refused to allow the city to purchase Metropolitan and last week the mayor asked Congress in the 1977 supplemental budget request for $17 million to renovate Glenn Dale.
Encouraged by hospital administrators and staff, Harris, Dubose and other frustrated patients recently organized "Wheels of Progress," an organization aimed at better therapy, equipment and programs.
The patients are asking for seemingly minor improvements: Push button telephone, more recreation ans social activities, guest speakers and visitors who understand their conditions and ties with organization for the handicapped.
Dubose, a former restaurant cook who was shot by robbers in 1974, said he would like to learn how to move his paralzed legs, to make his own bed, and "things I need to know to make it in the community."
Harris, shot in a barbershop fracas when he was junior high school student, is attending classes for the handicapped in Washington, But firnds the academic subjects taught unsatisfactory. He wants "to learn a trade, how to do something to make a living."
Albert Russo, acting director of the Department of Human Resources, said at a recent city council hearing that the facility "provides for rehabilitation . . . and prepares the patient for a return to the community."
Although their views were not aired at the hearing, several patients said the hospital does not live up to Russo's description.
Workers say that patients receive "tender loving care." Parients say, however, that often means pampering and overly solicitous attitudes that encourage depency.
Hospital officials are "really knocking themselves out," to improve conditions at Glenn Dale, Dubose said, but many of the facility's problems lie in its history.
"They say it's a rehabilitation center, but the workers haven't changed over from the old days," said Dubose.
Built in 1937 as a tuberculosis sanitorium, Glenn Dale became obsolete when new methods of diagnosing and treating the disease were developed.
The traditional treatment of long hospitalization, fresh air and isolation, was discarded. In 1959 the facility became a site where victims of various chronic ailments cold learn to live with their impairments.
Most Glenn Dale patients are incapable of demanding improvements.
About 40 are children, crippled life by childhood diseases, birth fects or accidents. The children, up to 12 years old, lie in old-fashioned metal cribs on wards of the "B" being for "babies."
The building's only physical therapist shows with pride how one boy has learned to feed himself with special thick-handled spoon, and other to play a child's organ.
That kind of progress is impossible however, for most adult Glenn patients, according to Dr. Bernad Soong, who tends a 55-bed woman ward in the "A" (for adults) build where many patients are senile, an tees or victims of multiple strong who are "like vegetables, able to blink their eyes," said Soong.
The afflictions of Glenn Dale patients affect all age groups, however Jacqueline Lee, 36, for example able to handle much of her own from her wheelchair, but accepts she 'will probably never walk again.
She had been married about years, and was "going to work every day," as a secretary at the Pentagon when multiple sclerosis struck about five years ago. Now she, weights in hospital's therapy sessions to strengthen her arms, wheels herself about the hospital to her apartment on rare visits home.
This year, for the first time transfer of Glenn Dale patients first considered five years ago, was apparent accord between DHB facility should be retained.
Harris and Dubose said they hope can also be improved.
"I look at myself and I think might be this way for the rest of life. I see four walls every day nothing happening," Dubose said.