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

Part 1 – Spiritual Journey Toward Addiction Recovery

Chapter 18

Gonna Be Days Like This

If it wasn’t for Mike Lunsford who gave me the “smuggle buggy” as we named the walker he gave me – and that medical eventually authorized me to have – I would have had a lot more problems, even more pain than I was already coping with. So I’m on Tylenol 3 pain meds for 5 days and that didn’t even come close to covering the pain from the quarter-mile walk to get them. I’m paying someone in the unit on a daily basis to change the dressing and rinse the surgical incision and staples in my back. When I asked medical about my wound care,  I was told, “Oh, you will have to go to sick call.” Nope, we’re not going thru that, it isn’t worth another long trip with the buggy to get it done, so I will just keep doing what I need to do.

It is now day 3 after my surgery. After having slept off and on during the night, I woke a bit later than normal because the sound of the key unlocking my cell door at 6 AM is the alarm for me if I miss getting up earlier for my dawn prayers. So I wake up at 7:20  AM and hear people out and about.  I try to open my cell door and find it is still locked. I figured someone must have forgotten my door so I ask one of the inmates in the block to go get the cop. Fifteen minutes go by, no cop to let me out. Then I see everyone going out the door so I know they called breakfast, still no cop.

So I wait and finally the cop comes and opens the door. I ask what’s going on, I have missed pill line now and breakfast. He said there was a note in the log book from the night officer telling him to keep my cell door locked because he smelled smoke last night down here in this area. What? Now I got upset. I’m in pain and have missed the chance to get my medicine so I tell him I want to see the lieutenant over this.

He said the lieutenant would be here before long and I can see him then. So I go about my business, eat a pop tart and take a few Tylenol, knowing they are not going to cut it. Now it’s 9:30 AM and they scream lockdown for count, so I go in my cell knowing that when I do get out to eat after count I can go to pill line then and get the next dose of pain meds. I really needed something keep me from being in so much pain.

So count comes and goes. It’s a holiday and we wait, and wait, seems like forever to go eat. By now it’s 12:30 PM and I’m starving when they call CHOW! Finally I’m off so I eat and then push the walker over to medical. As I do, I see the nurse heading down the walk. She pauses to say she has been called to the SHU for an emergency.

I say, “But please, I haven’t had pain meds since last night”

She said she didn’t have time but I could just wait and come back later.

“No, I can’t” I say. I know I will never make it back across the compound after this. My pain is excruciating and I’m exhausted after the trip to the chow hall then medical, so I park the walker, and sit down. Isn’t long before the compound roving officer comes to see why I’m sitting there when the compound has been closed and movement is over.

I explain that I’m waiting for the nurse because I need my meds but she had been called to the SHU and I can’t go then come back because I won’t make it and I’m in agony.

He says OK and to just stay there, out of the way and don’t go out on the compound. So I sit, 1:30 PM, and I sit 2:30 PM, and I sit 3 PM. All of a sudden here comes the nurse up the walk. I’m glad to see her.

She says, “I can’t see you now, I have to take care of this.”

I’m now hyper mad, I go straight to the lieutenant’s office about 20 yards away and explain everything that has happened, what I have been going thru and that I have now missed 2 doses of my pain medicine and hadn’t had any relief since the night before. So he gets on the radio and calls her, then he goes into the office gets on the phone to her. He comes out and says she is coming. Soon thereafter she comes out and asks me about my problem. Once again I go thru the spiel about no meds, the locked door, the late chow and the 2-hour wait sitting in the hot sun, hurting and waiting. Now here we are and I still haven’t had any pain meds and this isn’t right!

She tells me if she gives me a dose then I won’t get any in the evening after supper because it will be too soon to get another dose. Ugh! So weighing the situation, I say I will come back after count and dinner. She returns to medical, closes and locks the door. I wheel back to the unit after not having any pain meds for almost 24 hours and fall exhausted into the bed, where I stayed till after count, then it’s back across the compound again to finally get my meds.

Now there’s a post script to this. After many months, at a time when her quick action saved my life, Nurse Thomas and I  had an opportunity to talk about that day. Many things came to light, the most important being this nurse has proven herself to be a professional and capable nurse with excellent skills and patience.

I learned in our discussion that while I was waiting, she had been in the SHU trying to deal with a medical emergency after an inmate had been pepper sprayed. Some of the spray had made its way onto her which caused her great distress and this is what she was feeling when she walked past me back into the medical unit and locked the door behind her. Now I see her in a different light. She was there trying to help an inmate’s medical distress only to be made to suffer for her efforts. Furthermore, she was the only professional on duty in medical that day! They even had the nerve to ask her to stay and work overtime because another medical staff member wanted to stay home.

Fact is by ignoring their own stated policies, the BOP not only medically neglects and abuses inmates, but they also abuse and exploit their professional medical staff. During my years in federal prison, I have seen so many instances where things went wrong that could have been avoided had adequate basic care been provided.

As for me, the bottom line is, thru the strength of the Creator and my understanding that nothing will be placed on my shoulders that I can’t handle, I have managed to keep my sanity, or at least some semblance of sanity. I believe that all the trials and aggravations of daily life in here are the crucible that has forged my spiritual strength and my ability to become a functioning member of society in the world as it is today. It’s going to take the same tolerance and patience as I mustered that day of no meds, but it will be well and truly worth it. I just need to stay in my walk on the red road and be willing to humble myself to situations I can’t control rather than blow a fuse. It ain’t easy being me, but someone’s gotta do it….


Before the question I knew the answer,
You went thru me just like cancer,                    
I think you know you drove me crazy,
When it comes to love, my mind gets hazy.

Checked the radar, coming up clear,
Void the horizon nothing left to fear, 
The litmus test was too good to be true,
I was wrong, but that’s nothing new.

Shame on me for not seeing it…
Shame on me for not believing it...

Fool me once, screw with my head,
Things you did, better left unsaid,
You plead your case on bended knee, 
But fool me twice, shame on me...

Shame on me for not seeing it…
Shame on me for not believing it...

Shame © 2009 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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