Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I have an awesome back to school post, but I can't figure out how to get my pictures right on the new computer and I already erased them off my phone because I decided that when I blog on my phone my writing suffers (see, improvements already right?)

In the meantime, there was some professional excitement last week. On Wednesday I was coming back from a planning meeting in the warden's office, which is "outside the fence." That means that to get back to my office I had to re-enter the prison proper, through several gates and security check-points. Just as I got to my office, one of co-workers came by to tell me that there was an all staff response code one yard over (about 3/4 mile.) These are fairly rare, but they do happen. I'm never quite sure what our job is, since we're not "real doctors" but we respond all the same. We generally are tasked with taking notes. So I grabbed a pen and my stab vest and started race walking. There is no running in prison, ever, so you get very good at walking fast. As we left our yard, I looked to my left to see the officer from my treatment area sprinting pass us. This is maybe the first or second time I have ever seen an officer run fast on grounds. No running in prison is a serious rule. I looked to my friend and said, "That's not good." At that point I got even faster and my heart started to race. Then we heard the sirens blaring from ambulances from the local town. She looked at me and said, "That's really not good." After that we looked over and all the gates were open. That is very, very not good. So we hauled ass. We ended up blasting into the yard at the front of the line of mental health staff, right behind a man carrying a 5 gallon drum of pepper spray. All hell had broken loose. We were escorted through the security gate just as they were escorting the first inmate out. He was walking, but he was covered from the chest down in blood. My guess is that it wasn't all his. As we made our way to the staging area we were surrounded by inmates on gurneys, inmates being escorted by officers, and staff waiting to be dispatched. Right after we had gotten through, they had closed off the gate, so most of my co-workers were being staged outside of the secure area. Turns out they sat for over an hour, watching ambulances get loaded and waiting to be needed.

On the inside, we milled around trying simultaneously to be safe and helpful. I couldn't see much, but I saw a huge mass of officers out on the yard and they would occasionally walk or wheel an inmate into the medical area where I was. It was awful, but the organization of it all was amazing. People snapped into their duties and became these commanding forces. We were tasked with collecting medical equipment from other areas of the prison, so my friend and I grabbed three of our staff and ran (that part is still surreal) back out to the outer perimeter. Fortuitously, the maintenance crew was waiting right outside with heavy duty carts. We split in two and had the crew drive us to the other medical areas where we were able to grab vitals machines and load them back on the carts. I jumped in the back to keep them from flying out and rode redneck style back to the incident. We ran them inside, then got busy finding other necessary pieces. (Side note, Aerosoles and Payless SafTSteps are both great shoes for both running and navigating mysterious puddles. Now you know.) The biggest challenge was figuring out what the pieces actually were. Now I know what an oxygen tree looks like. We also had a front row seat for the carnage, including nearly getting run over by the casualty.

After a while we were dismissed because we were more in the way than useful. Walking out, the adrenalin quickly drained out of me so that by the time I got back to my office, the only useful thing I could do was call C so he knew I was okay before his phone blew up with breaking news.

It turns out that the incident was a riot with nearly 100 inmates, 1 death, and multiple admits to the hospital. In other words, it was big. And it was scary. But it was awesome to be a part of. The unity and the cohesiveness was amazing. People literally fell into step with each other. Everyone jumped in, and the people who weren't put to work anxiously waited for a way to help. Prison is a weird place and I often joke that we're not normal people. On one hand it's a joke, but on the other hand there is truth to it. It's what makes me love this job, despite days like today that were shitastic.

I also love my Payless work shoes. They're not cute, but I hosed them off in the front yard before I came into my house and the next morning they're good as new.


  1. Terrifying, but so awesome! Stab vest, for reals!
    You do have such a cool job, Dr.

  2. You will never run out of dinner party story material ever for the rest of your life. This was terrifying and fascinating to read. And I love that it is juxtaposed with a totally normal back to school post. It's like you have a secret identity a la Spiderman.

    Also, glad you didn't have to use your stab vest, but glad you have one!!

  3. So proud of you, but, truthfully, I tried not to think about it and pretend it didn't happen. Thank you so much for the early phone call and making your newbies call their mamas right away. Got a picture of the stab vest?