As a young news reporter, I smoked anything legal that I could get my hands on: cigarettes, a pipe…even cigars. And though I quit the nasty habit over 50 years ago, nicotine did its number on me. I live with COPD.
That means that even a common cold can give me some serious grief. So, when the symptoms appeared last weekend, I immediately contacted my medical care people. I was able to get an appointment, and proper medication, within hours.
This wonderful medical care, which we take for granted on the outside, is in stark contrast to what our friends behind bars must endure.
Sylvia tried to get help when she experienced early symptoms, but that’s not the way it works for the incarcerated. Based on her email message this morning, let us walk you through just one episode in Michigan’s prison for women.
Well, I’m finally seeing progress in my health problems. At first it was respiratory problems. The treatment: Alka Seltzer. Two days in, it was nausea, stomach pain, extreme headaches and weakness to the point I couldn’t walk. Healthcare refused to see me, and instead insisted that I “push fluids.”
Finally, on the 7th day, an officer contacted Healthcare and they said I could come. A nurse reviewed my symptoms with the doctor, and he sent me to the hospital via ambulance. They took good care of me with IV fluids, as well as pain, nausea and vitamin meds. All symptoms stopped. I begged the doctor not to discharge me, knowing that there would be no follow-up care in prison. He replied: “I tried, it was denied.”
I was discharged with orders to take magnesium, potassium, antibiotics for 6 days, along with a liquid diet, to control nausea and pain. Yet, the only thing I received was a liquid diet. I was on the floor of my cell, begging the officers to call Healthcare again, as all symptoms had returned. The nurse refused: “They sent her to the hospital, there was nothing wrong with her. Push fluids.”
Finally, after 12 days, food was good to my body.
Many of us have had similar problems. It’s upsetting to see these people crying and needing basic medications, only to be told to “push fluids.”
Sylvia’s getting back to her routine now, as a busy person involved in numerous projects. She says she has a lot of paperwork to do, must get to her ironing, and wants to do some walking.
A little extra time is all it will take with Jesus.
Our office is flooded with stories like this. In a typical month, we will receive 200-250 messages via letter, email and telephone, regarding inadequate or inappropriate healthcare in Michigan prisons.
Jesus is available to them. Medical care is more elusive.