By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Part 1 – Spiritual Journey Toward Addiction Recovery

Chapter 17

Didn’t See It Coming

As the days go on I become familiar with the prison and doing all the things I need to do, but first and foremost in my mind is going to medical to work on getting my back and spine issues resolved and surgery scheduled. So I go to sick call and explain my issues; I’m referred to the physician at the institution at this time. He recommends that another MRI be done and that I will then be scheduled for a consult with a neurosurgeon. I try to explain my history and tell him I’ve already had several MRI’s done and suggest he can pull this up in my medical record. So then he looks and says he can’t get them from Yazoo. Now I have been thru this for more than 2 years, so I know the dance, but what can I do? So it’s, “OK, thanks for your time, do what you can please.”

Meanwhile I’m plotting on what to do next to get these people to fix my back. A few days go by; I walk into the chow hall and who do I see but the warden; the very same warden who made the medical department in Yazoo upgrade my medical status and put me in for a medical transfer to a Care Level 2 facility. She says hello and right there in front of all the staff and inmates in the chow hall, extends her hand to me as if to shake it. This felt really, really strange, but what the heck, I shook her hand and the first words out of her mouth were, “How are you doing? Are you getting the medical care you need?”

I say, “Well, in fact no, Warden, I’m not,” then proceed to tell her about the song and dance they are sending me through over the medical records, the MRI so they can finally get me to a neurosurgeon for a consult, and then sometime down the road, the actual surgery. She asks me to wait and calls over the health services director. The warden tells her she wants me seen by a neurologist within the next 30 days and his surgery within the next 60 days, “Make it happen.”

Now to say I’m floored is putting it lightly; I have never seen a medical administrator put on notice so plainly and with such authority ever before. All the medical services director could do was say, “Yes Warden.”

Then the warden turns and says to me right then, “I want you to come to me when you have seen a specialist, and if you have any problems at all with medical…and Mr. Maisenbacher, I mean any problems, by all means come let me know and we will get them resolved promptly.”

Wow! That’s so cool, now I’m thinking, OK, this warden is going to straighten this place up.

Two weeks later I go to lunch from Unicor. It’s a Thursday I know because we were having chicken. I’m going to sit down when an officer walks up and tells me to put the tray down right now, “Let’s go!”

I’m shocked, “Where to?”

“You’ll see soon enough.”

So I’m thinking I’m on the way to the hole, but he takes me to R&D, to strip me, dress me in transfer clothes, and take me out of the institution. At that time he tells me I’m going on a medical trip. So out we go; he puts me into a white government van. Another cop is driving as the second armed officer and what a trip it was. Now they put the leg shackles on so tight they literally cut through my socks and into my ankles. I also had a belly chain that ran through my handcuffs and my cuffed hands were in a black box.

Now if you don’t know what a black box is, it’s a plastic box that encases part of the handcuffs to stop any movement or access to the locking part of the cuff. When the belly chain is put on too tightly, the box isolates the hands in a most uncomfortable way, forcing them to be at an odd angle. All this not only hobbles and secures you but deliberately demeans and humiliates you; so I ride in this miserable state all the way to Birmingham and back.

I see the neurosurgeon and he goes over the MRI results that they somehow had miraculously gotten from Yazoo, Mississippi. He tells me he needs to operate and explained what he would be doing, essentially to remove the sheared-off part of the disk in between the vertebrae, then open the passageway to relieve the pressure on the nerves in the spinal column. OK! That’s wonderful, I can’t wait! The surgeon tells me he will confer with the institution and schedule surgery. Then back to the joint I’m taken.

I was glad to know that I’m finally going to at least get the surgery, but I have to tell you, my anxieties kicked in and I did a lot of praying for strength and healing from the Creator. So time goes by and here we are well into August. I get the feeling it won’t be long. Then exactly six weeks to the day I’m called from Unicor to the lieutenant’s office and told I’m being placed in the special housing unit (SHU) pending a medical trip and immediately off we go. It was the worst night I had spent in a long, long time. I was scared and worried, afraid to be put to sleep, but I knew I had to do it.

The next morning it’s the whole chains and shackles deal again and off we go to the hospital. When we get there, they take us (me and two guards) to the prep room where I’m seen by the anesthesiologist. Then the surgeon comes in and explains the goings on and finally they wheel me into the operating room, put the needle to the IV line and its 100-99-98-97—wakey-wakey, 3hours and 14 staples later, they tell me I have to get up, and walk 10 feet, then pee before they can let me go. So I do the impossible and we are off, again fully shackled, back to the prison in record time.

I’m still pretty high, pain-killered out when we get back to Talladega. They ask me if I’m okay; I’m like, “Yeah, sore but whatever, I just want to lay down.” So they call over to the unit to have an inmate come get me and push me in a wheelchair the couple of blocks across the compound to my unit. I get in the bed. After a miserable night, first thing the next morning I go straight to medical. Whatever they gave me at the hospital had long worn off long before and I’m in severe pain.

According to my discharge instructions,  I’m supposed to get regular wound care, dressing changes, and pain medications. So I’m waiting and waiting. Finally the medical services director comes sashaying through. I ask if she could tell me when I might be seen since I have just had surgery and no one has told me anything. Immediately she became irate, raised her voice and spit out, “We will see you when we do, and not until then!” Oh boy, I’m in for a wild ride. I can see it coming.

What happens next? Well, you just can’t make this stuff up. So like I was saying, I’m in sick call to see someone about my surgery, to find out about aftercare or a laying off from work. Obviously I’m going to need some kind of care, but as I’m sitting there I begin to wonder. I know nothing and this woman became totally irate over a simple question that any post-op patient might ask. After she verbally abuses me, I just smile and tell her how sorry I am that life has left her so bitter and hateful and I would wait as long as I have to. Turns out I’m there about an hour before I’m called back to see the doctor.

He shuffles through the paperwork sent back from the surgeon with orders on what needs to be done then says, “Well, this ain’t gonna happen.”

He tells me I’m not going to be given any aftercare, or physical therapy. I’m just going to have to figure that out myself; maybe do some “stretches or something.” He did prescribe Tylenol 3 for pain 3 times a day, but that meant I would have to make the quarter-mile round trip 3 times a day to get it.

Now this was not the only point of some even more incredible indifference. When I was wheeled back to my unit directly after I got back from the hospital, they parked the wheelchair right outside my cell. I just went to sleep as best I could till the next morning. When I got up the wheelchair was gone; the cop tells me they had sent it back to medical.  

I said, “Man, I just had major surgery on my spine, how am I supposed to get to chow or medical?” He too must have gone to the school of “you’ll have to figure it out” because that is exactly what he told me.

Luckily for me there was a guy in the unit who had one of the walkers with wheels and a seat on it he wasn’t using. He brought it to me and said I could use it as long as I needed to. For that I was truly grateful and little did I know this guy would be a huge help later with wound care and dressing changes.

So, the doctor gives me the 2-week lay in for work and sends me out the door. I still had no schedule for dressing changes or wound cleaning or anything other than Tylenol 3 and a lay in.  Incredible as it seems, I’m really in a mess now considering I’m expected to walk a mile a day at least if I want to eat and get some something for pain directly after the operation. That’s the kind of sick diabolical thing we go through in here on a daily basis, stripped of our humanity, treated like less than animals by a system that is so corrupt that you will have trouble believing some of what I will be talking about, but I promise you, it’s all true, you just can’t make these kinds of things up.

Heck, even I with my crazed sense of mental adventure couldn’t make this up, and I even have an invisible dog named Booger that has been with me for several decades. He was there with me in the tombs of USP Lewisburg where for punishment I was held incommunicado for months without ever seeing anyone except a nurse or the cop that slid my food under the door like you would feed an animal.

INSANE, I’m – I’m 

Going forward to get behind		
(Seems like I’m losing ground)
The broken fragments of my whole mind	
(I’m living in a puzzle)
Falsified the facts to get the twisted truth told	
(Battling myself over all these true lies)
Sold your youth so you’d never grow old		
(I can never die, I’m a legend in my mind)

I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane

Telling me this to lie about that			
(Speaking in riddles, losing my mind)
Sleeveless shoes and a wet paper hat			
(Drowning in puddles to get where I’m at)
Newsman said the world is actually flat		
(Inanimate objects dodging these traps)
Everything you believe is wrong that’s the fact	
(Confusion set in, anxiety attacks)

I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane, 
Even the voices in my head don’t like you	    
(Backa – Backa – Backa – Backa – Backa x2)

The sky was black, and the sun was blue		
(Hearts bleeding, but not for you)
I went down the up escalator to get back at you	
(Running in circles, getting nowhere soon)
Three steps forward and four steps back		
(Can’t get ahead without my map)
Your truth is my lies and that's the facts		
(Looking in, taking me back)

I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane, 
I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane . . . 

Insane, I’m – I’m lyrics © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks on the Grass)

Published by Sings Many Songs

I'm an 80-something child of the great depression and WWII. Throughout my life I have been a seeker, an outsider, never quite belonging anywhere, still always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. A lifelong student with many interests and a love of writing and editing, my elder's path led to encouraging and assisting some remarkable people to write out their amazing stories. This calling became the magic elixir that keeps me growing, keeps me alive.

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