I can’t speak for the men but in the women’s prison, I saw several women die, always from medical neglect. This included my cellmate Gina who collapsed one day and was taken to Medical. They said, “Yeah, yeah, come back in two weeks and if you’re still sick, we’ll believe you.
Day after day, she got sicker. Two weeks later she went back. She said her head felt like it might explode. Medical said it was migraines, her sinuses, or allergies. “Take Ibuprofen.”
Two weeks later she went back again. This time she said her ears and gums were bleeding. Medical said it was gingivitis and to brush her teeth!
Finally, she went back for the last time. Her throat felt like she was swallowing ground glass. She couldn’t swallow jello. Medical said it was strep-throat and gave her antibiotics. All the while she begged for a blood test. Her parents called, also asking for a blood test. They were assured their daughter was getting “appropriate treatment.” That is a favorite word within the system that covers up a multitude of sins.
Her color went from tan to gray, and she lost fifteen pounds. She looked like a tall stick. The last weekend before they took her to the hospital was spent in agony. Too weak to climb up to her bunk, she lay on mine. I held her in my arms and repeated the 23rd Psalm over and over while Gina cried and moaned in her pain. “Make it stop, Sue Ellen. Why won’t it stop? Please, please, please make it stop.” But I couldn’t make it stop.
Desperately, I tried to get help and was threatened with a ticket. “If you don’t knock it off, Allen, you’ll be on your way to CDU.” (AKA, the hole.)
Finally, the officers called an Incident Management System, better known as an IMS to bring medical to the yard. Nurse Bob came grumbling down to our room, and suddenly it was filled with staff all waiting for him to do something. It was June and already more than 105 degrees outside. There is no air conditioning. The room was unbearable. I begged him to take her temperature. Although they aren’t supposed to touch inmates, one of the officers actually felt Gina’s forehead. “She’s on fire.”
Stubbornly, Nurse Bob refused to produce a thermometer, despite the huge bag he carried, and left in a huff, angrily proclaiming there was nothing he could do. Just as quickly as staff had arrived, they vanished, and we were left alone in a small, hot concrete cell without comfort or compassion. Gina continued to get worse and on the following Tuesday, they finally took her to the hospital. The doctor told her parents they had never seen a case like this. Her white blood count was 300,000 and her red blood count was Zero. (The average range for a white blood cell count is 4,300 to 10, 800 cells/per micro liter per cubic millimeter. The average range for red blood cell count is 4.2 to 6.9 million per micro liter per cubic millimeter.)
Her body was shutting down. Thus, her excruciating pain. Gina went into a coma and thirty-six hours later, two months after her first collapse, she died of undiagnosed acute leukemia. She was 25.
Never have I felt so alone and helpless. We are the property of the State. They are responsible for us. They are supposed to take care of us and yet they betray us regularly. Too many unnecessary deaths from medical neglect.
During seven years inside, I never saw or heard of anyone stabbed or beaten to death. The only murders were by medical and they take no responsibility.
Answer by Sue Ellen Allen