"Why Didn't They Hire A Vet, If We're All Supposed To Be Dogs?"
(...With apologies to Hunter S. Thompson)
Gary Brooks Waid
Now in the mornings I'm the property of Officer Crumley, a very pretty, pleasant young lady who doesn't exactly sparkle with enthusiasm over the day-to-day challenges related to her job, and who doesn't seem to want to hurt me. She says things like:
I say, "Yes'm" and off I go until lunch, when I get to eat my bag of stuff under a maple tree and listen to the younger guys talk about sports and sex. I'm learning a lot about sports and sex."Waid, you want to help Johnson clear that ditch there?"
During the first week, after lunch, Officer Woods took me with his squad. He didn't want to damage me, either, and on our third day together said something like:
But sitting in the truck with Officer Woods wasn't easy, at least at first. It was rather like being locked in a sauna with a 250 lb man speaking a foreign tongue, who wanted to discuss religion and politics and my personal failings (and of course, sports and sex)."Pops, now when the old back starts to go, you just let me know.
I'll let you sit in the truck with me."
...and so on. If I said something too coherent he chose to dissect each word for clues pointing to insult. He was just having fun, you know, but it wore me out in a hurry. A half-hour in the truck with Jolly Officer Woods and I gladly volunteered for anything. I'd have shoveled sixty tons of elephant dung and damn the bad back, lemme outta there!"What 'chu thinkin' about, Pops?" he'd goad.
"UH? Uh WHAT?" he'd shout.
"Uh, SIR, Sir."
But a lesson was in order and my age or medical condition couldn't be considered officially when the threat of disclosure LOOMED in the ether of the World Wide Web.
I wasn't always such a threat. In the feds they thought it was okay to scribble or peck at a typewriter. And the staff doctor at Texarkana, an older gentleman since retired, wasn't in cahoots with the bureaucrats. He featured among his attributes a bad back, which he must have had for years because he was forced to use a cane. His ambulations to and from the clinic were affected with a certain amount of discretion. Boy, was I lucky.
Boy, am I lucky, I thought. I can explain the pain in my sacroiliac and the doc will listen.
And he did. I told him how it felt, where the pain migrated to, how it ached to stand for long periods, the need to elevate my knees sometimes when I was supine, the top-of-the-hips, creeping numbness, the agony of constipation. I talked while he poked and prodded and checked my reflexes. Then he had me x-rayed and I was sent to town for an M.R.I. He seemed to give a hoot when I told him that prolonged anything at all hurt. Finally he said:
"Waid, you're getting old like me. Your back has creeping old-fartism" (moderate bone deterioration), "aggravated by all those years on those boats. A pair of discs are swelled out, like expanded. I want you to do these exercises every day. And walk a lot. Standing or sitting hurts, I know, but walking's good. We don't want to rupture those discs.
He gave me a sheet of stretches and things (I do them still), and issued the appropriate duty restrictions - bottom bunk, no heavy lifting, no prolonged standing, no rigorous bending or stooping. He told me not to sit for long periods, like I said, so when I went to work I swept cigarette butts on the compound for an hour a day, and the rest of the time I did clerk duties, typing up pay sheets and whatever else they needed.
The doc wasn't the only person to give me good advice, though. We had a yoga instructor from Peru who gave me some things to do (he was an inmate, of course), and there was this terrorist type guy everyone called "The Mad Bomber," (although I don't think he actually bombed anything), who was a karate instructor and ran some sort of dojo on the street. He gave me advice back then that now, years later, haunts my every waking moment. He told me these three magic words:
Every day for years now I have reached for my toes. Every day. And I want to report to you that it works, sort of. I am limber. I can bend and stretch. I spent so many days dutifully bending and touching then reaching and stretching, 100 times a day, that the tenderloin that runs down my spine is vibrant and blood-packed and healthy and gristly and pushes back when you mess with it. The Mad Bomber gave me the best advice anyone could ever have given me, not knowing that I would take him at his word and do his thing daily for years and years."Touch your toes."
"I can't," I said. "I'm too screwed up."
"Practice," he said. And so I did.
For the record I had a bad back long before I came to prison. My last job on a shrimp boat, I wore an elastic belt and a velcro weight belt over it. I used to literally scream during stretches after long nights on the deck. Before that I drove nails for a porch company in Colorado, and there, too, I had to wear a brace. After my little "diesel therapy" ride for the Bureau of Prisons, I wore a back brace for a year. To watch TV at Texarkana I had to strap into my elastic belt and tie my weight belt over it, then sit on a pillow. Even then I couldn't deal with the pain for more than the length of, say, a movie.
But now I've touched my toes for many years and have the back of your average fifty-year-old. Not even close to the cripple I USED to be.
Still, the idea is not to go backwards, but to preserve what you have. I decided to go see the doc here, and show him my record. His name is Doctor Ding or Dong or Dung, or something. It could be any one of a number of funereal clanging noises one makes by banging a ball-peen hammer on the Liberty Bell. He's a far-east type, a midget, a boat person, who went to school somewhere and learned something for sure (without having to learn English), and he presumably received a degree to practice medicine, but not in the real world. I prepared for my visit by digging up some of my federal paperwork about my back.
Doctor Ding wasn't very receptive. He refused to consider what had gone before. In fact he got testy:
...and so on."Whaaa you gimmee? Whaa is this?
Why you gimmmee this? I can do not-thing for youuu?"
So I decided to try reason. "Well, Doc, I thought maybe some sort of no heavy-lifting pass..."
But I didn't shut up. I assumed (again) that I was human. "...uh, well, you know, doc, uh...and there's the sunburn thing. Look at me. My face is ruined. I could use a hat and...""HEY JOE! YOU SHUT UP! I'M DOCTOR HERE!"
"STOPPY STOP!" he shrieked. Belatedly I got the message.
Guess what he asked me to do then? Yup. I should have known"
So I stood in front of him like MacArthur before Congress, and proudly did so."Okay, Joe, you touch toe now."
I tried to explain, but Doctor Dengue dos not talk to prisoners. Period."HEY YOU OKAY, WAID! YOU-GET-NOTHING-FROM-ME-YOU-LOOKY-GOOD-I-GIVE-YOU-SOME-PILLS-NOW-GET-OUT-OF-HERE!"
So now I'm in the ditches. Joseph Heller had it right in Catch-22. If you claim there's something wrong with you, there couldn't be anything wrong with you, documentation be damned. In the end he scheduled me for a URINE test, and gave me some Ibuprofen. If I'm really really in trouble picking potatoes on the farm or something, I'm to declare a medical emergency. But like I said, my bosses seem to be understanding. I dare not make an enemy, though. And I've stopped touching my toes. Doesn't look right.
The question here is this: Is this ridiculous little goofball competent? Are ANY of these DOC doctors actually competent? I mean, for sure the good Dr. Dong ignored all my federal records, something he's not supposed to do according to the text of the legal agreement between the feds and the state that exiled me here (illegally). And there's so much anecdotal evidence about DOC medical incompetence, much of it VERY serious, that I should hope NEVER to get critically ill here. The possibility makes me shudder.
But the idea that it's cool to be so rude and dismissive flies in the face of genuine medical care. I mean, isn't it important to talk to the patients? Even Fido and Spot get to bark when the vet presses down where it hurts. Elephants in the wild get to trumpet or something. Even lying cheating criminal elephants.
The reason they call Dr. Donk "Drop-Your-Pants," is because he makes a lot of the inmates drop their drawers when they visit. He checks the angles or sizes or whatever, looks closely for testicular ripeness. Doctor Mengele, the famous Nazi, comes to mine:
...so there's no end to speculation about Drop-Your-Pants' true motives. When I was at FSP Work Camp across the street, I went to Doctor Jacky-Jacky, so named because of his oft-repeated little Viet joke:"But Doc, what's this got to do with a sore throat?""YOU SHUT UP! I'M DOCTOR!"
According to Doctor Jacky-Jacky, masturbation caused all those illnesses that old fashioned theologists and fundamentalists warned us about years ago. Jacky-Jacky probably checks for hairy palms and stunted growth and insanity among the inmates."OOH, AHH, NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU, JOE! YOU JACKY-JACKY TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH JACKY-JACKY!"
But these guys can and will do real damage sometimes. And they do it because a DOC bottom line is more important than medical care. There's a guy here on the compound, Kenny J. Bramlett, with a giant cyst on his forehead that's been growing and growing, causing powerful headaches and a certain deformity that's impossible to ignore. He's frightened to death he has brain cancer or something, he can't sleep properly, the thing is taking over his life, but the doc refuses to look at it. He gave the inmate a urine test. Another man's foot was broken recently, in three places, during an accident at work. The guards drove him to Lake Butler Medical, where his bones were set and a cast was applied. He was given a 15-day lay-in, but due to a procedural error, pain pills were denied him. It took five days to get an Ibuprofen. When he was brought back on the compound, Dr. Dwang took his lay-in pass away, and one of his crutches, and told him to go to work picking up trash on the yard. With a newly broken foot!
The cast quickly cracked and sharded with use. It split and mangled the tissue, and the inmate, Mr. James Burdine, now has lacerations and blisters up inside the fiberglass. he's not allowed to complain, so he's filed a grievance, but so far nothing has happened. To replace the cast, to re-bandage and re-sock the foot, to allow this inmate two crutches instead of one, would be to ADMIT something.
Another ride to Lake Butler would send them over budget. Talk about your H.M.O. nightmare! How would you like to be ORDERED to hurt yourself?
And then there's inmate John Griffin, who recently contracted a raging, all-over-the-body case of chiggers (red bugs), and went to the doc for medication.
Dr. Dingbat gave him medication, but when John called his girlfriend who then called HER doctor, the guy laughed and told her that the DOC incompetent might actually be STIMULATING the bugs."YOU SHUT UP! I'M DOCTOR HERE! I GIVE YOU D.R.!"
John finally had to get some mite killer from the nurse."Doc, this stuff doesn't work," said John to Dr. Dim. "It's chigger food!"
"WHAT IS CHIGGER?" asked Dr. Don't Ask.
But there's a more sinister motive for the DOC medical obtuseness, and to you out there it may be difficult to grasp. I will use myself for an example:
I went to Dr. Drop-Your-Pants to protect myself. If you've read some of my past articles, you might remember that I was given a lying DR for "lying to staff," last August. They put it to me, and then said I didn't have the proper paperwork from the DOC Medical. IT was about a bottom bunk designation (which I've had since 1995) and somehow I became a LIAR because the ignoramus Doctor Jacky-Jacky didn't do his job. Now I've gone to medical and tried to explain my back problem. I've showed them my permanent medical record. I've requested the proper pass, but Dr. Dip-Shit has refused to honor my record. So if I am unable to do something at work, the cops can legally give me a DR for malingering. They can do that, and the Florida Department of Corrections will have constructed the entire gom-up, in bad faith, just as they did last August.
So I'm sending this report to Kay (and to you), and it's crossed my mind that it's not very polite, not considerate, and I'm being insensitive when I make fun of Dr. Drop-Your-Pants. He's an immigrant, after all. I should spread my arms wide and welcome him to our gilded shores. I should rejoice he's out of the rice paddy.
But to HELL with insensitivity! He started it! He started it by being rude and dismissive to ME! Why didn't he consider ME human? Why didn't he listen for just a goddamn minute? Why did he take the low road? - the Department of Corrections slime trail, the Ho-Chi-Minh, screw-Waid-because-he-can't-do-a-fucking-thing-about-it-and-he's-a-convict-anyway-ha-ha, paycheck path and toady up to his bosses rather than pretend to be a medical man?
Yeah, right. And I'm John Wayne, you little Cong lizard. I think you're a little Asian Swine. I think you talk funny, smell like rotten fish, and you haven't a clue how to diagnose a patient. And one more thing: Although you'd have to stand on a box to examine my genitals, I wouldn't give you the pleasure if you begged me."I'M DOCTOR!"
...probably don't have genitals of your own to play with..."I'm Doctor," my butt...
I was put on outside grounds, supposedly as prep to letting me go to Community Custody, but the real reason is probably my (our) writing. It is really really ringing bells. They don't want me here anymore. Not at all. And I suppose you know,
inmate Munoz has pretty much won. Officer Riley has been permanently banned from the compound (I think he is being evaluated psychologically).
Everything is quiet, Kay, and I am safe.