It sort of reminds you of that woman running for Governor in Michigan, who wants to “fix the damn roads.”
It’s seats that I want to fix. Actually, I want them replaced. They’re located in the visiting area of the Duane L. Waters Health Clinic in Jackson, Michigan. Waters is the health center for the Michigan Department of Corrections. Prisoners dread going there. They beg medical people not to send them there, because the perception is that they’ll go there to die.
But, sick prisoners and dying prisoners go there.
The building looks nice on the outside. Inside, it’s a different picture. I think Dr. Waters, of Manistique, Michigan, for whom the building was named, would be disappointed.
My major complaint today is about the seats in the visiting area. This section bears no resemblance to the visitation rooms in state prisons. It’s a glassed-in area in the middle of an open space, and there’s only one thing in this enclosure: metal benches. That’s where you go to meet your loved one.
My first experience in this room occurred in 2003 when I visited Maurice Carter, who was in terrible shape with Hep C. You could awkwardly sit on the benches, some distance apart, to face each other and try to talk. Or you could sit next to the patient, and try to talk turning your heads toward each other. But the biggest complaint: There are no backs on the benches! How’s that for treating the ailing and the dying?
15 years later, I get an email message from Diane, whose son is dying:
Today, my son, whom I did not recognize due to his nearly 90-pound weight loss in 7 months, was forced to sit on a narrow, backless cold metal bench to visit with me for 45 minutes. He needed to leave because it was causing him such pain. I asked for a chair or wheelchair for him. It was denied as it is against rules and requires a doctor’s order.
Let’s forget how stupid it is not to be able to quietly slip the guy a wheelchair.
Instead, let’s try to imagine the reasoning behind these seats. Metal benches with no backs and no armrests? For hospital patients and their visitors? Come on!
To the state’s credit, positive steps have been taken in hospice and palliative care. Progress is slow, but at least it’s progress. But improving the visitation area, especially with seating that is suitable for patients, would be easy to change and is long overdue.
It should be a budgeted item now, with top priority. It's time to make that happen!
Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.