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Leave The Diagnostics To The Pros

, , , | Healthy | January 10, 2021

About two and a half years ago, I started working as a health care assistant in the local women’s prison.

All in all, it was an okay job. I got on with most of the women, especially those who would stop me to ask about my day or just tell me about the new photo their friends or family sent. The officers were nice, if a little dismissive of genuine health problems at times.

I left the job after almost two years, but I still work there sporadically to keep my hand in, so to speak. I am working today.

The day starts as normal: handover and then medication rounds.

My registered practitioner is late in, due to a prior agreement we were not made aware of, so we go to the prison wing and find out that the lone officer won’t have a second for an hour. We need two officers for meds: one to supervise the girls taking the meds and one to unlock and lock up.

No problem. We get some admin done.

Meds start, and all is going well until two girls end up in a verbal altercation and are restrained back to their cells.

We then change sides to do the other section of the wing on the other side of the building. It’s slow, but everyone gets medicated. Then, it’s just clean up and breakfast. It’s about 11:30.

Now, to clarify, as a member of healthcare, I am required to carry a radio. We take a call sign and respond to location updates and alarms. Most notable alarms are our emergency codes. Code Red is heavy bleeding. Think a bloodbath, sprayed on the walls type. Code Blue is unresponsive or not breathing.

For either of these, it’s not uncommon to see five staff members sprinting the length of the prison with a 15-kg bag in tow.

We get set up to go back to our office in the centre of the prison, when an alarm is sent across the radios, signalled by a near-deafening klaxon.

Control: “Code Blue, [MY WING]. Acknowledge [OFFICER AND GOVERNOR IN CHARGE]. Acknowledge [NURSE IN CHARGE].”

Safe to say I’m hauling this 15-kg bag down two flights of stairs whilst trying to locate the cell.

As I arrive, the officer in charge of that wing tells me the patient is fine.

Officer: “There’s nothing wrong with her.”

Either way, I entered and tried to rouse the woman, a known epileptic. 

In the next thirty minutes, this woman suffered twenty-four witnessed seizures, each lasting between twenty and sixty seconds. She did not regain consciousness between, and she left for the hospital with the paramedics.

She returned later, self-discharged due to a fear of hospitals, but understandably tired and sore.

So much for “nothing wrong with her!”