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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Emergency Room -- April 26, 2014

Throughout the week, I heard rumors of a large scale Orange Crush raid. However, these proved to be false and operations at the prison except in the Roundhouse continued as normal. I attended commissary, some meals, a visit, and a couple of "recreation" periods. On Tuesday, I had an accident on the yard and was taken to the Health Care Unit's emergency room. The injury was slight compared to other men I met there with major health issues. A number of men at Stateville are old, crippled, or very ill. At some point I imagine I will join their ranks, however, in the meantime, I intend to make the best of my athleticism and physical strength. Despite my injury, I continued to do all the things I normally do including intense callisthenics and cardio exercises. Yesterday evening, I also went to the yard again to lift weights and run laps.

On Easter Sunday, prisoners were served shredded pork for lunch. Because the cell house was last to be fed, men were given larger servings. In fact, I was given so much meat, I put half in a zip-lock bag to eat later in the day. Pork is not served often at Stateville or possibly other penitentiaries in the IDOC. My neighbor Hooch claims Jewish descent and was given a special kosher tray which was not nearly as appealing. He complained for some time and I told him that is what he gets for killing Christ. In the cell, I deceived him into thinking I would give him the pork I brought back with me. While he was at his cell bars, I reached over and poked him with my remote control stick that I sometimes refer to as the Spear of Destiny. Hooch is probably less than 1/64th, but I like to joke with him on occasion.

During the day, I heard a rumor that a statewide tactical team was going from prison to prison ransacking their living units. Galesburg (Hill Correctional Center) was purportedly on lockdown last week while the penitentiary was searched. This week, I was told the SORT would be at Stateville. I was skeptical of the information, but was told prisoners had been drinking heavily recently and I should at least be prepared for an institutional SORT search. Apparently, an obnoxious black convict could be heard throughout the quarter unit yelling and singing in slurred speech. Other prisoners had told East Side to shut up and lay it down but he was too blitzed on hooch to listen. I was totally unaware of the incident because I go to sleep early and the drinking mainly goes on during the midnight shift.

There was little I could do to prepare for the Orange Crush. I did not have any contraband and I could not prevent the SORT from looting or damaging my property. Therefore, I just awakened early before the water may be turned off so I could eat breakfast and use the toilet. The sun was rising when I began to wrap a blanket around my mattress and I watched it through the dull cell house windows go over the prison walls. I wondered if it was going to be an exceptionally rough day until I heard school and some details lines being run as normal. If there was going to be an Orange Crush raid, these men would have been kept in their cells.

Well before 9 a.m., I had completed my exercise regimen and bathed. While waiting for either commissary or chow, I read an issue of Scientific America. The April issue was entitled "Cosmic Dawn," but covered various topics other than the formation of stars in the early universe. One article was an apocalyptic global warming treatise by Michael Mann. In 2001, the professor of meteorology worked with the International Panel on Climate Change and came up with the ridiculous prediction of a high rate of temperature increase which was nicknamed "the hockey stock." Mann was upset the IPCC last year lowered one of its climate models by half a degree Celsius and claimed, although the "faux pause" may buy the planet a few extra years, it was doomed by 2036. All long range speculations on climate were pure pseudoscience but those by the IPCC let alone Mann were of the worst kind. My opinion of Scientific America continues to decline.

When prisoners filed out of the cell house for chow, the lieutenant asked my cellmate if he slept in his clothes. Anthony had just recently awakened, but his shirt and pants were wrinkled because he sends them out to be washed. Prisoners' laundry is washed and dried while inside mesh bags. The polyester state blues are more likely to be returned deeply wrinkled than whites which have a higher cotton blend particularly if put in a small bag. I and many other prisoners will wash our blues by hand and hang them neatly to dry. However, this is too much work for my cellmate who can be lazy.

Immediately after lunch a group of inmates were escorted to the commissary building. The line of prisoners was stopped repeatedly but I did not mind. It was a pleasant 70 degree day and the warmest it has been all year. North America has had one of its coldest and most enduring winters in decades making me yet again scoff at the global warming Chicken Little's who continue to claim the sky is falling. I did not worry about dubious conjecture temperatures may rise a couple of degrees. However, at the prison store I did ponder if the water at Stateville is safe to drink.

The pipes at the prison are very old and regularly I will notice the water turn orange. If drinking rusty water was not bad enough an inmate I waited with after shopping told me there were a lot more problems. Moon claimed the levels of radon, lithium, and lead were high. He also said the guards were instructed not to drink the water and my cellmate added he just heard a corrections officer mention the warning. Prisoners have been speaking of a conspiracy since ever since I could remember and a person would need to be blind not to notice all the guards bring their own water to work or buy it in their cafeteria. In fact, I have heard many complain about the increase of prices in the vending machines which charges them $1.75 for a bottle of water. Then there is the large cooler I look down on from my cell that is in front of the sergeant's office that is always filled with bottled water. The next time I shop I may buy myself a dozen bottles, although I have always thought water sales were one of the biggest rackets in the U.S.

In the evening, I made myself a meal from commissary food and then looked for something on television to watch. After watching a segment on Headline News about relationships between female teachers and high school boys, I turned on WLS talk radio. Mark Levine had a good critique of Attorney General Eric Holder expanding clemency for drug offenders and decreasing the deportation of illegal aliens. Apparently, Barack Obama through executive decree was once again going to ignore the laws of Congress, not for the good of the country but for political expediency. There was a good chance Republicans will take control of the Senate and the Democratic Party was trying to galvanize support amongst black and Mexican voters.

On Tuesday, I again awakened early to get ready for yard and to allow my cellmate to do the same without me being in his way. For breakfast prisoners were served rice, bread, and a greasy turkey-soy burger. It was disgusting and I quickly dumped the meat in the toilet. Instead, I used the bread to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Temperatures had dropped from the previous day and over my shorts and T-shirt I wore sweats. It was indeed chilly when I first went outside, but after exercising I warmed up quickly and shed the outerwear.

I began my workout with bench pressing a 220 pound barbell. Towards the end, the number of repetitions I was able to do declined and I did forced presses. Not trusting other prisoners to spot me, I sought my cellmate out who was walking around the small yard and listening to his Walkman. This ended up being a mistake because he did not have the strength of other men I was lifting weights with. On my last set, he struggled pulling the barbell up and dropped it in the rack crushing the side of my left hand. Oddly, I had been the one warning him to watch his hands.

The injury did not cause much pain, but looked serious. An inch of skin had torn away and underneath was a deeper wound. Blood quickly began to flow out and I thought of ways to improvise a dressing. Before I ripped off a piece of my T-shirt, I walked over to where Horse was standing on the basketball court and asked him if he had any toilet paper. Many prisoners will keep some on them to use as napkins during meals or to blow their nose. Horse fortunately had about 10 squares on him and I folded them up and pressed it on the wound. From another prisoner I procured a rubber band and used this to tie around my hand twice. Problem solved, I thought, and began lifting weights again.

Despite my makeshift band aid, the blood did not coagulate. My cellmate asked me sarcastically if maybe I should quit working out. I was not going to stop my exercise regimen for some superficial wound and like Jesse Venture in the move Predator, I quipped "I don't have time to bleed." Another prisoner noticed blood dripping from my hand and expressed concern. After my set, he gave me another wad of toilet paper and this time I rinsed the wound, folded the flap of skin over it, and made a new dressing. This one held, but at the end of the yard period I wanted some band aids or gauze as well as antiseptic and possibly a tetanus shot. The barbell and bench were rusted and there was no telling what type of germs other prisoners had left on them.

Instead of following the line of convicts to the chow hall, I stopped at the cell house door and asked the sergeant if he would have a guard escort me to the Health Care Unit. He told me to step inside and he would call a med tech to come to me. In the holding cage, the Elephant was waiting to be escorted to the visiting room and asked me about my injury. After I told him what occurred, he ridiculed Anthony for being such a terrible spotter. Later, I spoke with Mac who was waiting to go to the personal property building regarding his case. He was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and one gun charge. Oddly, he was given almost more time for the weapon than allegedly trying to kill two people. For the attempted murders, he was sentenced to 26 years and another 20 were tacked on for the gun. Illinois has one of the harshest criminal statutes in the U.S. for illegal use or possession of firearms.

After waiting over an hour, a med tech finally came to the cell house. When he saw the wound, he told me I was going to the H.C.U. with him and we left immediately. The place was packed with prisoners waiting to see a doctor or other health care staff. A man in the crowd yelled to me but I did not have time to stop to acknowledge him. The med tech led me straight into the emergency room. The ER was actually used for a variety of purposes and mainly standard care rather than emergencies. In a sink basin in the back, I washed my hands with antibacterial soap and then the med tech poured iodine over the wound. Using gauze, I blotted the chemical and blood before bandaging. To take with me, the med tech gave me a couple of alcohol pads, ointment, and Band-Aids. Two Band-Aids were not going to last long and I asked for more. Almost reluctantly, he gave me an additional four. As for a tetanus shot, I should have known better to ask. As I left, I told the med tech I will personally blame him if I contract the infectious disease.

Just outside the emergency room was an old Caucasian prisoner in a wheel chair. I asked Cowboy why he was there. Earlier, while waiting in the holding cage, I noticed he had been wheeled out of the shower room. He said it felt like nerve damage and he could not feel his arm. Cowboy is 77 years old and has been assigned a cell just across from the door in the quarter unit. He does not go anywhere, however, and nearly every time I walk by he is lying down on his bunk. I tend to think he is just waiting to die.

As I walked past the holding cages of the H.C.U., I heard someone shout, "Terminator! Terminator!" The only people who called me by the name of the science fiction movie cyborg were those that were in the Cook County Jail with me. Sure enough, I turned to see a man who had been on my deck about 20 years ago. Once he got my attention he asked if I recognized him. Yes, I did. The somewhat insane serial killer was called Frankenstein. It had nothing to do with his murders but scars. He had been in some horrendous accident and had stitches across his entire body. Nude, he looks like he had been put together from an assemblage of pieces. Frankenstein looked happy to see me after all these years and asked what cell house I was in. I told him, but did not have much time thereafter to talk with him because a guard was ready to take me back to my unit.

A cell house worker was nice enough to give me a lunch tray and as I ate the cold macaroni and cheese with turkey-soy, my cellmate asked me what they did for me. After I told him, he asked if I had seen Lunchbox at the H.C.U. Apparently, Lunchbox had blacked out again. Just the week before, he lost consciousness while going down some steps and smacked his head pretty hard. In fact, he has been sporting a big goose egg on his forehead as if someone tapped him with a baseball bat. No, I missed Lunchbox, I told my cellmate. He was not in the E.R. and I must assume he was hidden in the crowd of men waiting to see the doctor.

Lunchbox was not the only prisoner to fall down stairs last week. When going out for dinner, Old School had a tumble knocking down a couple of other men in front of him including Mr. Lewis. None of them were seriously injured, but Old School was kept in the infirmary for several days. When he returned, he refused housing and was sent to Segregation. I am not certain why because while my cellmate was explaining the story, I was listening to news reporting about a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to prohibit racial preferences given to minorities. I assume, however, the prisoner wanted to be celled on the first floor so he did not have to climb stairs.

On Wednesday, I peeled off my bandage to wash the floor before I worked out. A cell house worker happened to be walking by and he wanted to see the wound. He thought it looked ugly, but when I finished, I put it back on and did an exercise regimen close to that advertised on TV called P90X. Exercising did not bother me as much as bathing and doing other tasks. Every time I got my hand wet, I had to take the Band-Aid off and afterwards carefully clean, dry, and fold the skin back over the wound before putting it back on or a new one. With only 5 bandages I changed them only once a day and I do not know what I will do next week. Actually I do. As always, I will improvise.

Wednesday evening is my survival reality television time. At 7 p.m. I watch the CBS show Survivor and then I turn to Discovery. For weeks, I have been tuning in to Les Stroud, but his survivalist show ended and this week was the season premiere of Dual Survivor.  Dual Survivor films two divergent types of men in various inhospitable environments. In this episode, Cody Lundine and former Special Ops Joe Teti were in Sri Lanka dealing with a tropical jungle full of dangers including poisonous snakes, wild elephants, and crocodiles. Often they had to overcome the elements and improvise to survive. It is inspiring to me and over the decades I try to do the same except at maximum security prisons.

I carried this attitude with me when I went to the yard after dinner yesterday. Immediately, I went to the weight pile to do some heavy incline presses. Instead of my cellmate spotting me, this time I had the Elephant. The fat man had the nerve to tell me he was stronger than me because he could do more repetitions. I countered that he was only able to outdo me on a flat or incline bench press and not any other exercise. Furthermore, if we considered he weighed twice as much as me, he was comparatively a lot weaker. I then did 15 chin-ups with ease and asked him how many he could do. The Elephant could not do one. After embarrassing the fat man, I went to other exercises, seldom resting. I was well past my prime in life, but I was far from done. Hopefully, I will miss regular trips to the emergency room for as long as possible.