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Hi. I'm trying to think of another description to put here. Any ideas? I'll try again at 420.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I think that I...

...have finally recovered from the traumatic events of last week. In the previous post, I explained what happened but I knew that there was more that I wanted to share with you.

I've been working as a nursing assistant or a Registered Nurse for close to 40 years. I remember being a child and having a special feeling when I was in the presence of a nurse. I guess it had something to do with the fact that nurses are, by nature, very nurturing and as the oldest of 6 kids, I sort of got lost in the shuffle as my mother had one baby after another. There were always younger kids to deal with so, as the oldest, I pretty much was left to my own devices. Nurses, on the other hand, are quite kind and considerate to their patients so naturally, I warmed up to them as I received the attention they afforded me.

Anyway, I grew up and went to nursing school and I've always enjoyed my profession. I also hold a special respect for the profession in general because it's a hard job and one never knows what one might encounter on any given day. Whatever it is, from the death of a patient to a smack in the face, pretty much anything is possible.

Nursing is one profession that offers an amazing array of varying areas in which one can work. I chose to work mainly in End of Life care, that's simply the area that gives me the most satisfaction. I could never work with children because I would just cry all day and that wouldn't help anyone. One area of nursing that I would doubt many nurses would even consider is Institutional Nursing.

I mean, of course, nurses who work in a jail, prison or other such lock up. I can respect the decision to choose that area of nursing but I certainly do not understand the attraction. That's OK, I don't have to. Many others do choose to work in such settings and all I can say is God bless 'em.

But somewhere between the feeling of "I want to devote my life to caring for other human beings." that leads one to study nursing and actually securing a job in a jail, something seems to happen that turns a nurse into something that violates most standards taught in nursing school.

Ask any nurse what his or her job is and they should tell you that they are, first and foremost, a patient advocate. Those aren't my words, that concept is inculcated into our psyche from day one of our training. We advocate for our patients even when it means refusal to carry out a doctor's order if we know it will harm our patient. Of course you let the doctor know what's going on, but nevertheless, we must advocate for our patient.

When I arrived at jail the other day, I was given a rather large pile of papers stapled together with the "rules" that were to be followed. Included in that stack of papers were a few rights that inmates were entitled to and one of those rights was medical care. The policy given to me promised "emergency health care" and "continuation of care for any chronic conditions".

First, let me whine a bit about my own experience...I recently had brain surgery and as a result, it's very important that I take blood thinners so as not to develop a clot around my new cerebral equipment which could kill me or leave me with devastating neurological deficits. In addition, I have a host of other less acute problems including a heart condition, a history of seizures and as of last week, an acute abscess in my left thigh that was obtained while I was actually IN the hospital.

I made no secret of any of my medical conditions and, contrary to any other opinions, I do NOT want my life to end at this point. I have a grandson due next month and other little people who call me Grandma whom I love dearly and I'm just selfish enough to want to spend more time with them in my life. But, I am NOT selfish enough to put my own children, my father and anyone else who cares about me through the pain of losing a loved one.

I'm not a regular at facilities that detain human beings so obviously I'm not familiar with any of the "ways" in which they operate. But, I do know that when I get extremely upset, I vomit violently and my heart begins to pound in my chest to the point that I'm quite frightened. As being detained is rather upsetting, I vomited continuously while I was detained, even though I was NOT making any deposits to my gastro-intestinal system. Spit wouldn't stay down, I wouldn't even consider tempting fate by partaking of the substances served to me through a slot in my cell door. Water wasn't even an option because it, too, would make me wretch. My lack of intake did not stop my body from trying to purge itself of any and all upsetting entities. I occasionally accumulated enough spit and bile to throw up but more often than not, I was simply having dry heaves over the stainless steel bowl of filth which was my "bathroom". I knew I was quickly becoming dehydrated.

One of the most upsetting aspects of that experience was that I was not given my seizure meds, my heart meds or my blood pressure meds. I could do without most of the meds that I take for a while, but those three and the anti-biotic for the abscess were imperative. I don't know how many deputies and nurses I reported this to but I assure you, I informed over 10 people that I was in need of my heart medication as my chest tightened and my breathing became labored. Saturday morning I was finally given the important medications that I needed and I began to feel much, much better. But, I had been detained since Thursday and between my entry and my exit, I can honestly say that I was in great discomfort and at risk for seriously negative health events.

Enough about me. Jail isn't as quiet as is, say, a library. There are all sorts of noises, from doors slamming to deputies cutting up in the hallways. But the most persistent of all sounds are the screaming of certain other inmates.

Thursday night I began hearing a man I eventually nicknamed Tarzan because of the primal screams he was emitting consistently. I asked a deputy, "What's wrong with that guy?" One smart ass deputy who had overheard my question answered, "He just won the lottery." The deputy to whom I had addressed the question said, "He's crazy, he doesn't even know where he is."

Also, there was a woman who I believe was next door to me. I could be wrong, but she certainly sounded close. She hollered for hours at a time, mostly paranoid ranting and foul mouthed threats. I know enough about mental health to recognize psychosis when I see it. That woman was absolutely psychotic as I assume was Tarzan. I nicknamed the woman J-Lo.

Society requires jails, I know that. But in a civilized society, jails should be reserved for those who break laws willingly. Neither Tarzan nor J-Lo had the ability to perform a willful act of any sort. They belonged in a locked up facility, but not a jail. Some sort of medical facility would have been appropriate.

Not only did the nurses not seem to address any pressing issues, they ignored those issues with an unbelievably rude and uncaring manner. You might say, "They're used to dealing with mean criminals." Well, I'm used to dealing with kind patients. But, I certainly have come across my share of nasty human beings requiring my attention and I treat them with no less concern than I do the more ordinary patients. As with most aspects of life, I deal with patients on a case by case basis which is, by definition, a part of professionalism.

I don't know what lead those unpleasant people to apply for a job at a jail. Most nurses are drawn to a patient population that they enjoy. These nurses were obviously quite contemptuous of their own charges and that rendered them absolutely incapable of performing their main job as a "patient advocate." They were uneducated and inexperienced at best and simply hateful at worse. They do not deserve the title of NURSE and they are most assuredly the pond scum of the profession.

To the medical "staff" at DuPage County Jail in Wheaton Illinois, I offer you a finger on which to place the oxygen monitor, I'm sure you know which finger to which I refer.


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