Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sept 13, 2012

Dear Sis~

Here's a snapshot of the type of medical care we get here. In the early morning hours of August 30, my friend Tom, who lived 2 cells down from me groggily awoke to find his face and pillow covered in blood and his tongue bitten about half off. He had no memory of what occurred.  That morning his speech was slurred (over and above his extreme difficulty in speaking with a then-swollen, bloody tongue) and I noticed his thinking was confused.  I told him he'd most likely had a seizure in his sleep (he has no history of seizures) and that because he was on high cholesterol medication he may have had a small stroke.  Over the following days Tom suffered progressively severe headaches almost constantly and began sleeping excessively.  His speech became increasingly slurred and his mental faculties were clearly compromised.  I, and others, constantly urged Tom to try to get up to the clinic to see a doctor (even though the two doctors here are notorious quacks) and so he began trying to stop any passing nurses (who go down our row to deliver medications to some) to explain his situation, but none of them were interested. Most just said "put in a sick call slip."  At my urging Tom declared a "medical emergency" which is supposed to get you right up to the clinic.  But instead, a nurse came to the wing, briefly examined Tom's swollen (and now infected) tongue, gave him two Tylenol and told him he was just "out of luck" since no doctor was on duty on a Saturday night.

Meanwhile, day by day, Tom got worse.  He knew something was wrong with him but seemed unable to figure out what to do.  I wrote up a sick call slip for him (by this time his handwriting was illegible and he could not put his thoughts together) and the next day a "nurse" or M.T. (medical technician) came to "examine" him.  He listened as Tom labored to explain what happened, starting with the seizure, then told Tom "Well, some people do this [bite their tongues almost in half] to get attention."  The M.T. then walked away.  By this time about 8-9 days had gone by.  On Sept 6 Tom went to the clinic for his "dental request" because he'd also broken some teeth.  Pursuant to this prison's recently enacted policy he was forced to lay on his back, reclined, in the dentist's chair for two hours with his hands handcuffed behind his back with the "black box" on (a very painful device which locks your hands rigidly in place in the handcuffs).  The dentist fixed one of his 6 broken teeth and prescribed a "rinse twice-a-day for his lacerated, infected tongue, but refused to help him see a doctor (who was just 20 feet away) to treat the real problem, the symptoms following his unexplained seizure.  When Tom returned to his cell his extreme distress was evident and when the 'cuffs were removed and he tried to move his arms in front of him he found one of his shoulders was dislocated.  His wrists were red, swollen and completely numb.  Somehow he managed to pop his shoulder back in place.

At this point I began writing grievances for him, grieving the medical department's refusal to let him see a doctor.  I submitted another sick call form for him, and when the nurse or M.T. (we don't know who is a nurse and who is an M.T.) came to see him the next day he told Tom he had to submit a third sick call form before he could see a doctor (this is the medical department's recently enacted policy, requiring all prisoners to submit three (3) separate sick call forms (costing us $5.00 each time; we must pay a $5.00 co-payment every time we submit a sick call form) before we can actually see a doctor (this effectively triples the mandatory co-payment, from $5.00 to $15.00).

By this time all of us prisoners knew Tom was seriously messed up and was deteriorating daily; the headaches were driving him nuts and his thinking was labored and scattered. His speech was almost unintelligible.  I felt that he was dying. All the wing officers knew he was messed up, and Tom desperately tried to explain his situation to any passing nurse or M.T., begging for help, to no avail.  Everyone just ignored his pleas for help.  It was painful for me to watch this unfold. Finally, two nights ago, on Tuesday September 11 at 7:40pm I heard Tom collapse in his cell.  Tom called out to me, very weakly, for help.  I immediately began yelling and banging for the wing sergeant, screaming "man down" and "medical emergency."  When the sergeant came he immediately saw how serious it was and he called the clinic to bring a wheelchair.  After 20 minutes of trying to coax a disabled Tom into stripping (for the obligatory strip search) and to climb on his bunk, face the wall, and put his hands behind his back, the officers finally entered his cell and handcuffed and shackled him.  They put Tom in a wheelchair and took him to the clinic.  By this time it was past 8:00.  Around 10:15 a freeworld ambulance came through the back gate, then departed, lights flashing, taking Tom to a hospital in Gainesville or Jacksonville (we heard differing reports).  I sat down and wrote to Tom's people, and one of his lawyers, telling them what had happened.  The next day (yesterday) I was reliably informed that Tom was at that moment undergoing brain surgery.  Clearly, he'd had a stroke or aneurysm of some sort, perhaps a series of them, and his life was hanging in the balance.  What I know for certain was that he spent 13 days in his cell begging everyone in the medical department for help, a man clearly in need of immediate medical attention, and nobody would give him the time of day.  Had he simply been able to see a doctor after his initial seizure (which was a classic warning sign) all the rest could have been avoided.  As it is I don't know if Tom is alive, or will survive, or will ever be the person he once was, physically or mentally.  He may be a vegetable for all I know. This type of treatment is typical here at F.S.P and this is why I always tell you how thankful I am for my good health, because if you get seriously sick in a Florida prison, and especially this one, you will probably just die.  Nobody here gives a damn, especially those working in the medical department.  (It takes awhile to stop being shocked at seeing doctors and nurses who are absolutely indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical problems.  I stopped being shocked decades ago after seeing too many friends left to die alone in their cells)...
Light & Love,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sept 5, 2012

Dear Sis~

Gov. Scott has broken his 5-month hiatus on killing people by signing a death warrant for John Ferguson, a guy out of Miami.  With 34 years on the row and eight murder convictions Ferguson was an easy target (I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did; I'm guessing there were some exceptional circumstances in his appellate proceedings, perhaps some substantial questions about his sanity or mental retardation).  I don't know this guy personally, but I vaguely recall his case(s), which, if I'm not mistaken, involved multiple incidents of drug related home invasions where everyone inside was killed.  I believe he had other co-defendants who were executed long ago, but possibly I'm confusing him with some other cases.  Anyway, the death machine has been cranked up, and like some ancient South Pacific volcano, will now be regularly eating up its quota of human sacrifices.  It's time to mollify the God of Revenge with the spilling of blood!  After all, nothing proclaims our modernity and civilization like the methodical, premeditated killing of our own citizens...

On a more pleasant note I greatly enjoyed our 3-day visit over the Labor Day weekend.  Stepping out of this tiny cell and into the visiting park is, well, it's sort of indescribable.  For those few hours it's like being in the "real world", like another dimension or reality where all my senses are heightened and magnified and everything is well in the world. Then I return to my cell and enter a drab, colorless almost two-dimensional realm which works mightily to suck all the energy and life force from the marrow of my soul.  After 24 years in a 6' x 9' cell this world is about all I know, or at least, it is a real struggle to remind myself that this world, like Plato's shadows on the cave wall, is just a poor reflection of reality.  So, I treasure all of my visits, as few as they are, but especially those with you...

My neighbor Carl was moved a few cells down the row when his sink water (both hot and cold, or more accurately, cold and cold since we have no hot water in our sinks) quit working.  After about 6 days in a cell without water they just moved him into an empty cell rather than get the inmate plumbers to fix it.  That's typical here, where this decrepit, 52-year old building is falling apart due to a complete lack of preventative maintenance and equal lack of competence. This place is a dump.  I came here in 1974, 38 years ago, and I've never seen this prison so poorly run and poorly maintained.  Apathy abounds.  Now, with an empty cell next to mine I've got to wonder who my next neighbor will be; hopefully someone who is not crazy, who yells and bangs all day and night (we get our share of them)...

That's about it for now, Sis.  Keep your chin up and a smile on your face!
Love & Peace,