Woman in jail denied medical attention until last moment - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Provision of the two UN HDI indicators other than GNP.
Forum rules: No one line posts please.
This is a story about a woman who was denied adequate medical treatment while in jail.
It could have resulted in her dying or becoming permanently disabled.
These types of stories are really not that uncommon in the U.S.

by Christin Taggart
(posted around 2019)
posted in Quora, "What incident has traumatized you for good?"

In 2013, at 26 years old, I was arrested and sent to Steuben County Jail in NYS. I was arrested after making the dumb mistake of driving without a driver's license, and telling the officer that I didn't have my license ON me, and gave him my sister's name and birth date. I was charged with misdemeanor probation violation with the original charge being criminal impersonation and was in jail waiting to go to court. I had never been in any legal trouble before I made the abominably stupid idea to try to trick the officer out of giving me a ticket for driving without a license.

About 4 weeks into my incarceration I began getting severe headaches. It got so bad that I put in a request to go to Medical and see the jail’s Physician Assistant. After seeing her for the first time and describing pain that I felt in my nose that spread to the top of my head, I was told that I was suffering from a sinus infection. I accepted that as a plausible explication, and took the antibiotics that were prescribed to me.

A week went by and the pain was getting worse, not better. I again requested to go to Medical, and was again seen by the PA. I told her the pain was getting severe, that it had spread to the side of my face and the back/side of my neck, and asked to be taken to the hospital. The PA told me that she was not sending me to the hospital, that hospital visits were only reserved for emergencies, and she had concluded I had an impacted tooth.

A day went by and I was in complete agony. I was unable to move my head even the slightest bit without feeling as if my entire head would explode. The pain was so bad that I couldn't eat, sleep, and basically laid on my bunk sobbing. I begged every CO on shift to help me. Different sergeants were called in to talk to me and I'd beg them to send me to the hospital, but was always refused.

At about 9 days after my headaches began I developed double vision. I told the nurse that was handing out meds that I had constant double vision. I remember telling her, “There's two of you.” I was instructed to put in a slip to request to go to medical. A few hours after the double vision began I was talking to another inmate when she went, “Oh my god, your eyes… they've shifted.” I went into my cell and looked into the mirror, and was horrified to see that I had gone cross-eyed.

I had been calling my mom every day telling her that I knew something was very wrong with me. After seeing that I had gone cross eyed I called my mom, hysterically told her I was cross eyed, and asked her to call the jail and see if she could persuade them to take me to the hospital. Everyone my mom called and spoke to on the phone or talked to in person at the jail would assure her that I was getting adequate medical care.

I requested to speak with a sergeant, and after about an hour one showed up to talk to me. I showed him my eyes, told him my vision was doubled, told him I was in the worst pain of my life, and pleaded with him to send me to the hospital. I told him that I knew something was seriously wrong, that I knew if I wasn't treated soon I would die. To which he said, “I didn't know that you're a doctor! Go back to your cell, you can go to Medical in the morning.”

The next morning, after about my 10th sleepless, agonizing night, I descovered I could no longer walk properly. Instead of my normal stride I was now walking with small shuffled steps. I felt very unbalanced, like everything was spinning. I was on a 2nd story tier, and it was nearly impossible for me to get down the stairs. I was again sent to medical, and this time I was told that I was NOT going to the hospital, to stop bothering the COs and sergeants, and that all this was, “Your own fault for taking other inmates medication.”

I was completely stunned, and adamantly denied that I had taken anyone else's medication. The PA said that I must have, that it was the only explanation for my eyes going cross, and that it was obviously a drug reaction. I cried and told her it wasn't true, that it was something neurological, and begged to go to the hospital. I told her that I was positive I was going to die, begged her to save me. Cold as ice, she called in the CO and said, “Take her back to her cell. Tell everyone to stop bringing her here. She's wasting my time.”

I felt absolutely helpless. I was sure that I was gravely ill and that the jail administration was just going to let me die in my cell, alone and scared, in complete agony. I was moved to the ground floor as a safety precaution, and laid on my bunk basically waiting to either become unconscious or die. The other inmates became involved, told staff they HAD to help me, but were met with deaf ears.

About two hours later I remember adjusting my head, and I immediately felt a pain in my head and neck that caused me to start screaming uncontrollably. It felt like my brain was too big for my head, like my head would explode. The sergeant on duty was called, and when he came to my cell I recalled saying, “Please, you have to help me, I'm a human being, I'm only 26 years old, please don't let me die.” I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude when he replied, “Okay, get your shoes on, we'll get you checked out.” I sobbed uncontrollably, and just kept thanking him.

He had to keep his arm around me to help me walk up the hall. We got to the end of the hall and he stopped to open a side door and led me in. We entered a room with a desk, two cells, and a shower. He opened the cell door to one of the cells and set me down on a wood bench. He left, shutting the door behind him. I asked him, “When am I going to the hospital?” to which he replied, “ You're not. We can't have you screaming like that, bothering everyone on the unit. You are staying in Constant Watch until you can grow up.”

I was absolutely devestated. I was being held in the cells they usually use to watch people who are suicidal. I was put in the cell, the desk was moved right in front of it, and a guard was placed at the desk to watch me. Why he told me I was going to go to the hospital I don't know. I've never felt more let down in my entire life.

That whole night I laid in that cell sobbing. I remember singing songs to try to distract myself from the pain. I screamed a lot. I begged the guard to help me, but didn't even get a response, she just sat at her desk ignoring me. I started vomiting uncontrollably, which made the pain in my head and neck even worse. That was the worst night of my entire life.

In the morning the PA came in along with a sergeant. I told her that I couldn't walk, couldn't see, and was in the worst pain of my life. I again, for the hundredth time, begged and pleaded to go to the hospital. I again reminded them that I'm a human being, that I would soon be dead. She looked at me for a minute, then said, “take her back to her cell. All this is her own fault.”

I began crying and screaming, feeling like the torture and pain I was enduring didn't matter to them, that to them I was just a criminal, lower than a dog. The sergeant says to me, “it's obvious that you can't be in that much pain if you're screaming. I couldn't scream like that if my head hurt.”

I continued to scream and cry. A different sergeant came in to talk to me. I said to her, “please, I'm dying, please take me to the hospital.” She stood there for a minute, then said the greatest sentence of my life, “okay, we'll get you looked at.”

At the hospital I was given an MRI and CAT scan that showed nothing. Then I was given a spinal tap. The doctor told me that my spinal fluid shot out like a geyser. Tests confirmed I had Fungal Spinal Meningitis. I was told if the jail waited even 12 hours longer I would have most certainly died.

My mother was able to get my judge to release me on my own recognizance so that my family could be with me while I recovered, and so I didn't have to be chained to my hospital bed being guarded by a Correctional Officer. After 10 spinal taps to get the pressure off my brain and spinal cord, and lots of heavy duty pain and anti fungal meds I did recover. I had double vision for a long time, along with trouble walking, but I did make a full recovery eventually. However, I will never recover mentally from my 11 days of hell.

I lost faith in humanity after that. All these people working at the jail stood by and let me suffer. I was tortured. Trained medical staff did nothing to help, even when it was completely obvious that something was seriously wrong with me. In their eyes I was just a good for nothing criminal. I broke the law, so I deserved what I was getting.

A few months later I decided I wanted to sue the jail. It is every prisoner’s right to get adequate medical care. My human rights were violated, I wanted them to pay. Well come to find out, NYS gives you 90 days to file a lawsuit against the county, something I was unaware of. I couldn't even sue.

I am still plagued with horrible claustrophobia, PTSD, and nightmares. I am traumatized and don't know if I will ever fully recover.​

Some additional stories of gross medical neglect in this thread: Hell on Earth: Inside American Prisons (5 Nov 2019 in North America section)

Opinion: Government healthcare is bad enough. Prisons run by private for-profit companies are a really bad idea.
I also suspect it is likely she contracted the fungal infection due to the conditions in the jail cell.
This could be due to several reasons: an enclosed space that builds up humidity, a previous prisoner in the cell and then lack of adequate sterilization, including of the sleeping mat, which often tends to be old and dirty, concentration of a large number of individuals together in a small space, and then when one thinks of the typical population in jail, composed of many homeless and mentally ill persons who statistically carry a higher rate of disease.
The air ventilation system in the jail may not have been cleaned or sterilized in a long time, and small stagnant pools of water can build up in the system due to temperature differentials, which can host fungal growth and mold, hazardous to health. This is pretty common since small county jails often have limited funding (especially in more rural counties, which was the case in this case).

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