I’m going to share a sad story with you today. It comes from my friend Linda, who is a prisoner here in the State of Michigan. Normally, before we publish stories like this, we tweak them, brush them up, rearrange them, to make them look and sound nice. Not so this time. I’m going to let the narrative take its erratic path so that you can actually hear the sobbing hiccups, feel the dampness of the tears.
Linda tells the story of a fellow prisoner named Michelle, who is no longer with us.
I have been in this unit since April 11. Michelle went to diabetic lines every morning and evening. I never knew Michelle as a healthy woman. For these few months, every time a health care professional walked through the waiting room, Michelle asked, “please help me, when am I going to be seen, I hurt so much.” I worked in the medical profession for several years, and in that time I have never seen edema as bad as hers. Her legs were not only swollen, but as her leg rested against the side of her wheelchair on the way to diabetic lines, the compressed, indentation remained through her entire wait. She had bed sores on her body that she could not reach and needed another inmate’s assistance to apply ointment to them. But what the tragedy of this is, she was yelled at by officers, ignored by nurses and doctors and called a faker. One particular officer, on more than one occasion, yelled at her, yelled loud enough to be heard 5 rooms away through closed doors, that she was faking and could not use the wheelchair in the unit. "Get out of that chair, you’re faking and going to really need it if you don't get up and start walking!" Michelle pleaded, “I can’t, I hurt, you don’t understand how bad I hurt.” One day she fell in the bathroom, nurses came in to the unit and the unit officer told them she didn't need a gurney, that she was only faking it.
This week Michelle died. Do you know why Michelle died? Her cancer of the stomach returned, aggressively, and took her without any time left to treat or even give her the humanity of care and kindness that she deserved. She was ridiculed and left to suffer and ignored until the new PC came into the unit and sent her to the infirmary. She finally got sent to the hospital, but it was too late. She had no time left.
My immediate response: I should call a doctor. (I did.) I should call a lawyer. (I did.) I should tip off the media. (I did.) But there’s only so much that Matt and I can do. We continue to hear stories about mistreatment of women by the State of Michigan, and yet nothing seems to get done.
So here’s my suggestion this time: Share the story. Share it with any Michigan taxpayer you know. Share it with your State Senator and your State Representative. Complain loudly. Make your voice heard.
I have no idea as to the nature of Michelle’s crime, if there really was one. I have no idea whether she was a problem patient. I do know this: She was someone’s daughter; she was created in the image of God; and, she did nothing to deserve this kind of treatment.
The good news is that Michelle is in a better place now, where there’s no pain, and no more tears are being shed.
The bad news is that we’re still weeping here.