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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Physical Therapy -- May 3, 2011

Last week I received a pass to the Health Care Unit (HCU). The pass has a checklist with a number of abbreviations for a nurse to check to let the inmate know what it is for. It is also used by those at the HCU to notify them as well. I looked over my pass and saw there was a check next to "PT". I have never been given a pass with the letters "PT" checked, and had no idea what it was for. I asked my cellmate if he knew, but he did not. I put the pass under my bunk on top of one of my boxes. It was not until later when I was thinking about it again that I figured it out. It was a pass for physical therapy.

For years, the doctors at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago had recommended that I receive physical therapy for my back injury. I have asked the prior medical director numerous times about it, however, I was either ignored or told there was a huge backlog. He also told me that he only let people who had undergone surgery go for physical therapy. Maybe, if I had surgery, he could make room and put me on the list. I was not going to have surgery, and therefore thought I would never receive physical therapy. The medical director usually has the last say about it--he was like the warden of the HCU.

A couple of months ago, the medical director resigned. From what I have heard, he had become overwhelmed with the lack of staff, mainly doctors, and the numerous lawsuits filed against him. As the director, he was often held responsible for the malpractice and medical negligence at the prison, even if it was not directly his fault. He was guilty of deliberate indifference when inmates notified him of their medical problems and nothing was done. At Stateville, numerous prisoners went without adequate medical treatment. I was one of them, although my complaints were not as serious as many of the others.

One of the biggest complaints was not receiving treatment for my lower back injury. At one point, I could not walk for about a month. I was not even able to get any ibuprofen during this time. I saw an idiot of a doctor who told me there was nothing wrong with me, even though I could not stand up, and was barely able to make it down the stairs to see him. Recently, I have been without Prilosec, which is necessary to prevent stomach ulcers for those taking anti-inflammatory drugs for a long time. I had stomach pains and severe heartburn which caused me to greatly reduce my use of the anti-inflammatory drug prescribed.

Although I was glad to finally receive physical therapy, I had hoped the pass was to see a doctor who would renew my prescription for Prilosec, or some other stomach acid inhibitor. For over a month, I had been sending written requests to have the medication refilled. I spoke to a nurse about the matter finally, and she told me I had to put in for sick call and see a doctor because the prescription had expired. I had been taking Prilosec for years, and the doctors all knew I had to take it with the other medication. After a few more weeks passed, I spoke to another nurse who told me that sick call is a month behind, and it may be a long time before I would get the prescription renewed. I said, "If I was not in prison, I could walk into any pharmacy and buy the pills without seeing a doctor. Why do I need to see one now?" She said, "I'll put you in for sick call again."

My pass was for 8 a.m., but I was not let out of my cell until after 9. I knew that I would be late. Count never clears at Stateville before 8 a.m. Whoever made out my pass was either stupid or new. When I was finally let out, three gallery yard was being run. Almost everyone on the gallery came out for yard, and there may have been over a hundred men grouped up around the gun tower and near the front door. It was extremely loud with nearly everyone yelling or talking. I was put into a holding cage until the yard line was sent out, and I had the pleasure of being passed by this obnoxious and loud crowd of prisoners.

At the HCU, I was greeted by another crowd. There were three holding cages in the front of the prison hospital. A large one was to the left, and this was for people in general population. On the right were two cages. The first one was for prisoners in protective custody, and the other for those in segregation. I was put in the large holding cage, although I was in F House overflow. Despite being in the Roundhouse, I am still classified as general population.

Upon entering the holding cage, a person I do not like greeted me. I told him not to talk to me. Then a man from P.C. began yelling to get my attention. I was not too fond of trying to communicate with this man across the hallway over all the noise, but I did say a few words to him before sitting down. While waiting, I saw Wild Bill, or he saw me. Bill was my neighbor in general population, and was a righteous convict, although he was obnoxious, loud, and usually annoying after any length of time. Bill sat next to me, and talked, and talked. I was somewhat glad when he was called to the lab to give blood. Doctors recently told him he was a diabetic. Wild Bill had cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis C, red sores on his scalp, and odd skin rashes of unknown origin. Bill had a lot of problems, and I preferred to talk to him not only for short durations of time, but at two-arm distances.

After spending a couple of hours waiting in the crowded holding cage, my name was finally called. I was greeted by a white man with an unmistakable British accent who was also named Paul. He led me to the physical therapy room. The room had very old and crude equipment, including a large, but empty, bath tub that appeared to have never been used. I sat down on an elevated mat while I answered the therapist's questions about my injury and pain.

The man told me that based on my answers, he was under the impression my problem was a joint problem. I did not know specifically what he meant by this, and he showed me a picture on the wall of the spine, and then pointed to the bones in the back of the vertebrae. I was skeptical. I have two crushed disks in my back that are quite visible on my MRI scans. I did not see anything wrong with the bone structure.

The therapist wanted to start off with putting a heat pad on my back, and asked me to take off my shirt. He commented that I was in great physical shape, and had almost no body fat. I did not look like I needed any physical therapy. I told him, I used to be an athlete and a body builder. He said it looked like I still was. I said, "It may appear that I am in great shape, but I do not feel that way."

The man asked me to lie face down on a bench that looked like one used by a masseuse. He had better not think he is going to oil me down and give me a massage, I thought. I did not want to be touched, particularly by a man. I wondered if the therapist was gay. There are so many homosexuals in prison, and one may want to work at a prison. I made some small talk while the heat pad was on my back. I asked him how long he had been in America, and what made him become a physical therapist. He said he had been here about 15 years, and used to play rugby and football where there were many sports injuries. I said, "You mean soccer, not football." "No," he told me. "We play throw ball, not real football." I said, "I see what you mean, but your countrymen did not know what they were missing. American football is a much better sport." After the conversation, I felt better around him. I did not think a homosexual would play rugby or any other aggressive physical sport. He also did not act, sound, or look like one.

After lying on the bench with the heat pad, the Englishman showed me three stretches to perform. The first was done by lying on my back and moving my legs from side to side. The second was to pull my legs to my body. The last one was going back on my knees stretching outward. All of these movements I already knew about, and already did in my cell. I was disappointed because I thought he would be able to perform some chiropractic or spinal decompression therapy.

I spent a few hours in the HCU's holding cage before I was able to get back to my cell. It was a very annoying experience, and I was disappointed by the physical therapy session. I thought I may not come back for this again. I can save myself all this grief and do those stretches and many others in my cell. The guard had apparently forgot about getting me an escort back to F House, and I had to remind him. It was close to 3 p.m. when I returned, and I felt that I had wasted my entire day.

This Monday, I received two HCU passes for Tuesday. One was for physical therapy and the other to see the medical director. The passes were separated by 6 hours, and I thought there was no way I am going to spend another full day at the prison hospital. I thought about skipping the PT pass and just going to the 2:00 appointment, which was the most important. I wanted to meet the new director, and go over my medical treatment as well as have my prescription for Prilosec renewed. While I ate breakfast and listened to the television news about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, I debated how much aggravation I wanted to endure for the day.

I thought I needed to give the physical therapist another chance. I had been waiting for this therapy for years, and doctors at the university said it would be beneficial. A guard came to my cell about 8 a.m. and told me he knew I had a pass but he was not going to let me out till 9, after the yard line was run. That was fine with me, and I read a newspaper while waiting. Unfortunately, I could not bring it with me, but I tore out a Sudoku puzzle to take.

My wait at the HCU was not as long as the week before. This time, I was brought into the PT room with another prisoner. He recently had a shoulder surgery and did a number of various shoulder exercises, mostly with large rubber bands.

The physical therapist wanted me to do the same stretches as I did last week, but he added a few more. He also gave me a large plastic exercise ball to put under my legs while I moved them from side to side. After each stretching exercise, he asked me how I felt. I said the stretches took away some of the stiffness in my lower back and made me more limber, but did not really affect my pain. One stretch increased my pain, and he told me not to do them anymore. I thought to myself: I do a number of exercises that cause pain, but I do them anyway.

I did not bother the British bloke with talk about the Navy Seals' assassination of Bin Laden. However, I did ask him if he watched the Royal wedding. He said he did, and asked me what I thought of it. I told him I thought it was over-televised, and mostly only of interest to women. He agreed, although I got the impression from him that the Royal wedding had some significant meaning to him. I tended to like this man more than most of the people I meet at Stateville. He seemed intelligent and competent, unlike most of the medical staff. He was also a great contrast to the people I am forced to live with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I did not think much of the physical therapy session, but it was a respite.

After my PT session, I was able to get back to the cell house quickly. Lunch was mystery meat bologna, and I took the bread off and threw away the rest of my tray. Instead, I heated myself a package of commissary bought jerked pork, and made a quick sandwich with it. Then I did some real stretches, followed by an intense workout that had me sweating profusely. I thought maybe the physical therapist was correct, and I am still in good shape.

After washing up, I went back to the HCU, this time with my cellmate. Josh had an appointment for the dentist at the same time I had my appointment to see the medical director. On the way out, we were stopped by 3 gallery inmates coming back from yard. There was a long procession of prisoners coming through the doors and going upstairs. As the men came in, they were offered lunch trays and chips. Toward the end of the line, they ran out of trays. Prisoners complained until they were told what was on them. The lieutenant told the workers to just give them extra bags of corn chips, and this made everyone happy.

At the Health Care Unit, both my cellmate and I were told our passes were cancelled. A guard informed me that I was not there to see the director but only a doctor to renew my prescription. That had already been done. The physical therapist told me he had taken care of my prescription for Prilosec. I did not believe him, however. I have submitted numerous requests, written letters to doctors, and spoke to several nurses. Nothing was able to get my prescription renewed. Maybe, there were benefits to seeing the physical therapist.

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