As I lay there lost in my moment of introspection, I could not deny a strange sense of fear, my world was shrinking. The sounds in the module, a blaring TV and the smells of the room: the old food, the soaps, the mustiness, and the gloominess of the dull light, seemed to take on a physical presence. Everything in the room seemed to swell, taking up more and more space as I lay there. The walls crowded closer and closer in on me, taking up the space where air used to be. It was like being in the grip of a boa constrictor, which each exhalation, the space, my space, became more confining and constricted. Finally I had to hold my breath and change the focus of my mind in order to find relief.
My thoughts quickly turned to my interaction with Metzger and the doctor earlier that morning. The emotion that followed was anger. Metzger was easily dismissed. I simply classified her for what she was: an anti-conceptual mentality who had found comfort in tribalism. She was never going to get it. My problem with her was solved the moment I stepped away and no longer challenged her to do what she dreaded most in life of doing: thinking.
The doctor though was more of a dilemma. He, as a physician and scientist, had forfeited his authority in the matter to Metzger. That was scary. She couldn’t possibly have understood the ramifications of an INR of 4.3. But the doctor did know. He knew quite well the dangers involved and yet he let this layman make decisions concerning his patient. He was cowering in a corner while the guard was discharging patients from the medical ward.
No wonder medicine had and was continuing to go to hell. I know his posture confirmed my shame in being a physician – in being part of a group where men refused to stand up for what was right. And right is for the people with the knowledge to stand up and take control of their business. While I am sure that there have not been many people who have died because of doctors trying to reclaim control of medicine, I am sure countless numbers have died because doctors haven’t.
I was brought back to the present when, in the bed above me, the inhabitant began to stir. He stepped down from the upper bunk, first to the table/desk secured to the wall, then to the stool, and finally to the floor. He was easily six foot tall, grey beard, dressed in a white T-shirt, white boxers, and white tube socks. A large black man, yet oddly passive, he looked at me with a great deal more surprise than I thought possible. Had he not really heard me come into the cell? If that were true he was a lot more comfortable here than anybody ought to be, for he was indeed a heavy sleeper, “Wow”, he said, “I’ve got a new bunky”. He took a piss, flushed the toilet, and climbed back the way he had come down. After he had reached the bed and settled back under the covers he said, “My name is Mike”.
“My name is Jan,” I said clearly but not with a great deal of conviction. There was no response and the conversation continued no further. The sound of his snoring engulfed the room once again.
Time stood still and shortly thereafter-at least I felt like it was shortly thereafter though in retrospect it could have been hours- I was summoned by the watch officer, Officer Herndon, who was sitting just outside the glass wall at the desk where earlier the black female had checked me into E mod, “Adams,” he said through the intercom, “the nurse is here to see you.” Then there was that buzzer sound, that harsh grinding followed by an audible click that signaled the opening of the door. Unfortunately by the time I got from the bed to the door, it had relocked itself and I did what I was soon to learn was the unthinkable; I pushed the intercom button. There was no voice this time only the clicking of the door opening. I walked along the outer wall of the “day room” to the door across from the officer’s desk. The glass door separating us clicked open as I arrived. Officer Herndon pointed to the woman standing next to his desk; she had already prepared a place for me to sit.
Angela was her name and I had met her before because she was the phlebotomy nurse. Angela was a big girl, approximately 5’10”, 280 lbs., very pretty with long hair and just above her shirt line at her neck was the beginning – or possibly the end – of a large tattoo on her chest that looked like flames.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hi,” I returned. “I’ve got to tell you I’m a bit concerned.” She looked at me apprehensively, but cocky at the same time, prepared to defend some idea that I had not yet expressed. It was a defensive posture but I found it offensive. I really didn’t think she had anything to be defensive about. But that’s the way it is, only amplified in here. Everyone is wound tight, ready to deflect or defend whatever might come at them. “I want to see the doctor if I can. I didn’t finish with him this morning, and I am a little concerned because my INR was 4.3. I had asked the nurses dispensing meds what it was for the past five days and nobody said anything, yet they continued to feed me Coumadin each night.”
“Well,” she said, “I don’t know about that. I’m just a worker bee and what I need to know is if you want this blood drawn.”
“You are not just a worker bee,” I said. “You’re also a healthcare professional. And as such I’d think you’d be interested in what you’re doing, not just doing it.”
“Well, I’ll be sure and get you an appointment with the doctor.” She then drew one purple top tube of blood from my left antecubital fossa. As I waited to place pressure on the withdrawal site, she cautioned me, “Don’t put your hand in my way.” I let her withdraw the needle and place a cotton ball over the site. I applied pressure as she turned to complete her work. She placed a piece of tape over the cotton.
Before returning to my cell I got an inmate request slip from Officer Herndon, and returned to 2E12 to complete it. Prior to my transfer, Officer Paretta, the classification officer, had suggested I fill one out to secure a job within the facility as I moved forward. He pointed out two advantages: one, it gets you out of the cell for a few more hours during the day, and two, it reduced your stay by one day for each day you worked. Herndon concurred and pointed out it was important to do because nothing got done without a request slip, period.
Dinner arrived a short time later with a chorus of shuffling and banging as the horizontal slit in the door was flung open and the orange plastic trays were shoved through containing an assortment of unidentifiable dishes. I retrieved both trays from the slit and placed them on the table.
Mike arose quickly, pulled on his prison pants, climbed down from his bunk, and sat on the stool. “Did you come from ‘I’ mod?” he asked.
I sat on my bunk and ate from the tray placed at the end of the table. “No,” I said. “I came from medical.” We both ate fast so as to get something down before it got cold or you recognized what it was, or wasn’t. Mike was done quickly and retreated back to the safety of his bunk and covers. I waited for the slit to open once again. Just as quickly as it had arrived, dinner was over.
The immediate difference here, amongst the general population, as compared to the medical unit was the level of noise.
The TV was on at full blast all the time, at least from 8:00 am until 11:00 pm, and immediately my thoughts turned to why? Clearly the guards had control of it and it was apparent that they were motivated to do only what they pleased at any particular time. I couldn’t help but think that I was witnessing another one of their psychological games – much like the coldness, or the obvious lengths to which they went in order to prevent you from knowing the time or the schedule, or to allow you to devise any other schedule but their schedule.
At any rate, I announced to my “bunky” my desire to use the bathroom (a common decency I had learned from Shariff), he appreciatively gave his consent. I turned out the light, created a seat cover with toilet paper, and strained through a hard, small, tar black stool. Since I had been here at Solano County my bowel movements had been few and far between. This had been a source of concern, but on this occasion a bowel movement was quite satisfying, both physically and psychologically. After the first movement, I courtesy flushed the toilet, and then silently completed my business. I flushed once again, then turned back on the light, washed my hands, and headed to my bunk to read.