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Katya Cengel became patient number 090 71 51 at the Roth Psychosomatic Unit at Children's Hospital at Stanford in 1986. She was 10 years old. Overwhelmed by feelings of abandonment, worthlessness and anger at having to care for her depressed father, she wanted out. She found it the only way she knows how – by starving herself.


Thirty years later Katya, now a journalist, discovers her young age was not the only thing that made her hospital stay unusual. The idea of psychosomatic units themselves, where patients have dual medical and psychological diagnoses, was a revolutionary one, since largely fallen out of favor. Katya documents this, tracking down the doctors, psychologists and counselors who once cared for her.

Strait Jackets And Lunch Money

  • Katya Cengel is the author of Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) and Foreword INDIES winner From Chernobyl with Love and two other non-fiction books including Exiled featured in a California State Library curated collection. Katya reports from around the world for New York Times Magazine, Marie Claire and Smithsonian among others.

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