Chapter Nine – Step Into The Light
By Steven Maisenbacher
I’ve been going through it here at this place, we all know that, but the last few days have been over the top. For the second time since I’ve been here they ran out of my long-acting insulin. I take two kinds, a short acting and a long acting as well as Metformin. Last Saturday morning I alerted staff to the fact that I did not have insulin for my next dose. One of the nurses office staff, who’s actually very helpful and a pretty good guy, got right on it and called the supervisor.
She then called and got the prescription ordered through the pharmacy and I thought that that was going to be all it took. How wrong could I be? Afterward, when they called to ask if the prescription was ready and available to be picked up I was told I needed to call the pharmacy. So I called and gave them the numbers they needed, then they told me they could fill the prescription but it could not be picked up without the proper insurance forms or $357 in cash.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t happen to have an extra $357 laying around nor am I required to pay for my own medications while I’m officially still an inmate in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The people here at the halfway house are under contract with the BOP and it is their duty to handle all ordering and paying for all my medical needs. The person at the pharmacy then went on to inform me in a most disdainful manner that the medical card these people had tried to use for insurance was not only invalid but void.
Question of the day: Where and how am I supposed to get my insulin?
So I call the Medical Center where they took me for my physical check-up and prescriptions and spoke with the on-call doctor. She told me that yes the prescription was written and yes it was ready for pickup, but the insurance card provided by the facility was no good. I asked if I could do without that long acting insulin until Monday as I was told to do by the supervisor who handles such situations for the facility. That’s right! The supervisor’s exact words were, “Oh you’ll be all right, you’ll just have to tough it out until Monday.” This coming from a woman who is herself a diabetic and has had many complications with her disease. Who should know better what diabetes can do to you if not properly taken care of?
The on-call doctor told me that the people here needed to do something and highly recommended that I not go without this long acting insulin. She said in fact it is more important in my treatment than the fast acting insulin and told me that Walmart carries emergency dosages that can be purchased over the counter for around $25. All I had to do was get there and pick it up. I would have to pay for it myself, of course but I’ve got to do something.
When I went back up to the desk and informed staff of this I was told that they were not going to call the supervisor back and that her instructions were, and I quote: “If his sugar level reaches 500, put him in an ambulance to the hospital. Don’t bother me anymore.”
So even though they have a van sitting outside for the purpose of taking people where they need to be for medical care, no one was about to approve transportation for me to go purchase the emergency doses myself. That’s what happened so I had to go without adequate meals and tough it out until Monday. What did I do? I sent an email complaint to the BOP Community Corrections Management Coordinator who supervises the halfway houses in this district concerning the abuse and neglect.
Next question of the day is: Who cares? I’ll tell you who cares, Sings cares, Bab cares, Karen cares, my brothers care, Janice cares, my whole family cares, and I care about the situations they have put me in.
In situations like this I’m helpless. I can’t just walk out the door and go to Walmart myself. Nor do I have money to pay for insulin even at Walmart over the counter for emergency purposes. I don’t have a job and I’m having a hard time finding any place that will hire me…that’s another issue. In fact, on November 5th, I sent a letter to the editor of the Illinois State Journal Register newspaper describing my plight. So far I’ve filled out 35 applications and been to 11 interviews. Still no job. The sad thing is people see a 62-year-old with a walker and no computer skills and I don’t get the job. It doesn’t matter how many skills, experience, and abilities I have, I’m never given a chance.
That’s a shame. I want to work. I have to work. I have no money. How will I support myself? I’m enrolled in Lincoln Land Community College as a full-time student with my first semester day being January 9, 2023. I can’t wait to start. It’s one step closer to my dream of becoming a certified alcohol and drug counselor, one step closer to my dream folks, but three steps behind how will I get there.
To date I have spent more than $80 on bus fares because this facility refuses to provide bus tokens. “Oh, we don’t have the funds for that yet,” they say, when I know they get $54,000 per year from the BOP for every inmate they house. I’m not begrudging them that money but I would think that out of that they could certainly afford to see to it that I had my insulin and some bus tokens to help me look for work.
So Saturday and Sunday go by and still no insulin but they did promise I would have it on Monday morning. Wrong again! By 3:00 pm on Monday still no insulin had been purchased by the staff. However the woman who said they should “Send him to the hospital if his blood sugar got over 500 and not to bother her,” was extremely cordial for the first time ever when I confronted her about the situation. I assured her that unless I received my evening dose on time my family would be contacting an attorney. Still no insulin on Monday evening but promised to have it Tuesday morning.
Tuesday morning family had had enough and started making phone calls, leaving messages insisting on immediate attention to this huge problem. I reached out to my senator’s office as well and started my search for an attorney.
With seeming ignorance of this unresolved problem, the supervisor went out to work in the field. By 1 pm I asked a staff member who likes to play big shot why I didn’t have my insulin. He said he would call the boss and then reported to me that I should call the pharmacy myself to see if the prescription had been filled. So I did.
I talked with Chris, the pharmacist. Chris told me that my prescription was ready but the insurance information they had was not valid. He was sympathetic to my situation and told me to tell “those people” that they need to get their business together.
I relayed the message to this staff person and told him I had already called a law firm and insisted they make getting my insulin a top priority. After a while I was informed that the boss did give permission for staff to take me to Walmart to purchase an emergency dose with my own money, so that is what I was finally doing at 2:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon.
On the employment front, despite all this hassle, I did keep one last appointment with an agency on Monday morning. We discussed my issues about being automatically turned down due to age, disabilities and lack of computer skills despite outstanding qualifications & experience in many areas. The consultant said she would re-submit my resume with a strong suggestion to a couple of companies that need employees with my skills and suggest that in-house computer training would be in the best interest of the company. Don’t know if that will do any good, but I’ve had it. After purchasing my own vile of insulin I was left with $2. In my pocket. So be it. They hassle me for selling my jewelry, but I wonder what they expect me to do for income?
Next and final question: Who really does care? After all I’m just an ex-con, in a world that seems to turn its back on men that are coming home after paying the price for their committed crimes and want to do the right thing to become productive citizens, to make a difference and to make their lives count for something. I don’t know what happened to the world while I was gone, but folks, I am not impressed with what it is now that I’m home.
Nothing changes when no one changes. I once wrote a song about this. One of the lines went, “If you don’t like the way the world is, then change it, just change it. It’s your obligation to change it but do it one step at a time.”
I’m not ranting, I’m not even mad or upset, more in disbelief than anything but I promise you this I will not lose my faith in the goodness of humanity. I will not lose sight of my goals or my dreams, nor should you lose sight of yours. Wish somebody could tell me if my perception of the world now is inaccurate. The Creator knows I wish they would tell me that I was wrong about this.
Thursday – Last minute update. As of Wednesday morning, the big guns from headquarters were in the house. Everyone was being extra polite or ignoring me all together except my actual case manager, Ms. Hughes, who had never been informed of any of this. When she asked if I planned to go out to the college on Friday to start working in the computer lab to learn how to use it before school starts in January, I responded that indeed that is my plan. She told she would see to it I had a box lunch to take with me so I wouldn’t have to buy my own lunch.
Not long after that conversation, it came time for me to take my insulin. I knew it was dangerous to just stop taking the long-acting insulin and had not felt well, so had cautiously started back on it with smaller doses. So after taking my first full dose after dinner, I went to sit outside on the seat of my walker. The last thing I remember was getting choked on a sip of water and then waking up with my face plastered on the cement. My friend called for help and the next thing I’m in an ambulance headed for the emergency room.
After assessing all injuries to head, arms, hands and wrists, the doc tried to figure out what happened and why. My blood sugar was at an ok level, so he asked me to relate everything that had happened. I was told in no uncertain terms that no diabetic should ever just stop taking their long-acting insulin even if the need is minimal. The dose should be gradually reduced over a two week period or it will cause the body to go into shock. So the doc felt that between the shock of my insulin level being so erratic and hyperventilation from coughing, that the momentary lack of Oxygen was all it took for me to pass out.
So there it is. . . Fortunately, I had another pair of glasses since the ones I was wearing were smashed between my face and the concrete. Looks like I won’t be going to the college to work on my computer skills for awhile though. Got some healing to do first.
Thanks for caring. Walks