Medical Malfeasance by POW Tom Kikuchi

posted Feb 3, 2013, 10:33 AM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 3, 2013, 10:36 AM ]
It started out like any other prison night. LPOP had just sent me the latest Dean Koontz novel and I was eager to dig into it. The lights go out in the dorm at 10 PM but inmates are allowed to purchase AAA battery powered reading lights that clip onto the back cover of a book. With these discrete lights, I could read until the wee hours of the morning if I cared to. This night, however, was not to be one of enjoyment and mental escape.

Shortly after the dorm's harsh fluorescent lighting went off, there is a relative quiet with the sounds of snoring punctuating the stillness. I was intently following Koontz's storyline in the dim glow of my reading lamp when I heard a strange noise that came from the cubicle across from mine. It was a sudden gurgling, burping sound like a stuck drainpipe releasing a big bubble of air. At first, no one thought much of it because many prisoners have nightmares and cry out in their sleep. A minute later, though, pandemonium reigned.

The loudness of the unusual noise had stirred an inmate from his bunk to check on a new guy who was sleeping on the bed above him. The new guy had been at the prison for only a couple of months so it wasn't generally known to us that he had a serious heart condition. But his other cube mates knew and when they shook the new guy's bunk and got no response, the shouting started. In an instant, the lights were on and all 120 of us got up to witness a grim sight. The guards were called on the emergency intercom and they came quickly. Under their orders, the stricken inmate was laid out in the center aisle by his cube mates. Up until that point in my life, I had never seen someone die up close and personal. The image I will take with me forever was the deathly blue-gray pallor and the look of asphyxiated agony on the body's face. Since there are no medical personnel on duty at night, the local town's Emergency Medical Team had to be called. It took them over an hour to actually get inside the prison because of "security issues." The medical team now had a rapidly cooling body to work on. They tried their best with CPR and drug injections straight to the heart but it was futile. After the body was strapped down and carted away, we all learned about the now dead inmate's repeated visits to the prison infirmary where he complained about severe chest pains. This seriously ill inmate was simply given some aspirin and told to come back again and again. He wasn't even given permission to rest from his prison job on the gardening crew. So, for two months, this guy went to work with a leaking heart and then died. The moral of the story is "When in prison, never get sick and never get hurt." This is a code to live by because despite all the government's propaganda, medical assistance in federal prison is incompetent at best and barbaric at its worst.

Do you know how minor dental cavities are fixed in prison? They simply yank the whole tooth with local anesthetic and give you a couple of aspirin for the pain. If you need special emergency medical assistance, it will take hours to get it. One time, I suffered a kidney stone attack after lights out. The pain from a kidney stone is one of the worst things you can imagine and it took over four hours to get me through security and into the local town hospital. The guards who escorted me were nice enough to look the other way when a nurse insisted that I take a forbidden Vicodin but they broke regulations in doing so. As you can probably guess, medical marijuana prisoners face special challenges in prison. They are not there because they are healthy individuals who exercised their free will to thumb their noses at the government. On the contrary, they are people who are fighting various illnesses through the use of a plant which seems to help. Most of them had a network of health professionals such as doctors, chiropractors, homeopaths, and alternative therapies to help cope with their maladies. In prison, you have nothing except for the will to survive.

Originally published in the Prison Outreach Press, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Winter 2011).

Cite this article:

Kikuchi, Tom. "Medical Malfeasance." Prison Outreach Press 2.1 (2011): 1. Print.