Letter from MarQui: August 2019

Letter from MarQui: August 2019

This is the sixth installation of a column composed by MarQui Clardy Jr, one of our pen pals incarcerated at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Virginia.

When a person is incarcerated, it's expected that they'll have a number of the rights they enjoyed in society stripped away from them. But you'd also expect that certain basic human rights, such as sufficient medical care, would be inviolable. You would be wrong. In 2011, while working in the inmate kitchen at another prison, I experienced a terrible accident that showed me how little my rights matter in prison.

On this particular day, I was rushing through the kitchen and mistakenly slipped on some cleaning solution someone had just poured onto the floor. I landed directly on my face and blacked out, having suffered a blunt force head trauma injury. When I regained consciousness a few minutes later, I was leaning up against a hotbox being attended to by two nurses. I was in a slight state of delirium; my neck was in so much pain, I could barely hold my head up; there was blood pouring from my nose, mouth, and a nasty gash on my forehead; and my jaw felt broken. The nurses advised that I be immediately transported to the hospital to see a doctor. However, despite the obvious severity of my injuries and nurse's advisement, the C/O's made me wait until they changed shifts - which took almost an hour - before clearing me for transport.




Instead of being placed on a stretcher, I was cuffed, shackled, and sat upright inside the cage in the back of the transport van. No nurse came along to monitor me. During the entire hour-long ride to the hospital, my nose continued bleeding profusely as I faded in and out of consciousness.

Upon my arrival at MCV, I was promptly examined by a physician. The injuries revealed by my X-rays and CT scans are as follows: depressed segment of nasal bone, depressed fracture to frontal sinus, complex fractures to the maxillary bone [the bone that forms the roof of my mouth], complex fracture of nasal septum, left and right orbital fractures [cracked eye sockets], and ethmoid sinus and frontal sinus hemorrhages. Additionally, the physician noted that I had "C6 tenderness" in my neck and spine, noting that my "cervical spine is evaluated to the superior endplate of T1."

Surprisingly, the only treatment I received at the hospital was a tetanus shot and stitches to the laceration in my forehead (OVER the cracked orbital bone). The physician prescribed me Percocet pain medications, and told the C/O's to see to it that I be placed on a soft foods diet until my jaw healed. He also told them to make sure I was housed in a sterile cell to avoid a serious infection such as meningitis. Then he discharged me. Only a few hours after I'd arrived at the hospital, I was headed back to the prison with my nose still dripping blood and my neck still in excruciating pain.

When we arrived back at the prison, I was taken straight to the Watch Commander's office where I was inexplicably charged with fighting and sent to Segregation (even though a kitchen surveillance camera clearly showed me slipping on the floor; not fighting). Against the doctor's orders, the Segregation cell in which I was placed was anything but sterile. The toilet was stopped up with urine and feces, and the floor was wet, most likely with toilet water. Despite my protests that my health may have been at risk in that filthy cell - since I had open wounds - the officers refused to relocate me. They also completely ignored the doctor's order to place me on a soft foods diet. Instead, they continued bringing me regular meals that I couldn't chew due to the fractures in my upper jaw. A lot of times I had to go without eating anything.

I also never received my Percocets, nor any other pain meds the entire first week after my accident, which was when I was them the most pain. I was constantly telling the officers I was in pain and needed emergency medical attention. Their response was always the same: "Submit a sick call form to Medical." I didn't want to go that route because it takes days just to get a response from Medical, and I needed immediate care. Imagine laying in a hospital bed in serious pain, and instead of being able to press the call button to summon a nurse, you're forced to write her a letter, mail it to her home address, wait a day or two for her to receive it, then HOPE she decides to come help you.

Seeing no other option, I went ahead and submitted the sick call form, explaining the severity of the pain I was in and reminding them that I hadn't been receiving the pain medications I'd been prescribed. Just as I expected, I didn't get a response until two days later...telling me I'd been scheduled for a medical appointment the following week. An entire week! Given the seriousness of my injuries, you would've thought I'd have been given better medical attention. But again, you'd be wrong.

Somewhere in the free world, someone else slipped on the floor at work and suffered blunt force head trauma injuries similar to what I'd suffered. That person was immediately rushed to the hospital, kept in a sterile room for at least a couple days where they were monitored by medical staff. They were given medications for their pain. They had a nurse periodically check on them throughout the day. They were given a brace for their neck/spine injury, and some type of dental wiring to help their jaw heal properly. They were shown that their well-being actually mattered. But because I am a prisoner, I was afforded no such humane treatment.

Officers', nurses', and doctors' lack of empathy in prison medical care is a reflection of the overall public's perception of prisoners as less than human and undeserving of the same rights and standards of health as non-incarcerated people. The rate of medical malpractice and neglect in jails and prisons is exponentially higher than in society. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed!