Twas the very end of June, 1995. A bit more than 6 months past my DOI, 12/17/94.
It’d been a particularly rough incident, fractured a couple vertebrae in my cervical spine and extruded the C6-C7 disk into my spinal canal.
I was determined to “shake it off” believing at the time that I could work through any injury, given sufficient determination and prescription painkillers by the handful.
Apparently the administrative staff knew better and just a few shifts post my return to “full duty” following about 3 months of limited inmate contact, I was set up for a dining hall incident.
A convict from Maple Unit with whom I’d had little contact and no conflict, set me up for a hit. My instincts prevailed and I was able to prevent him from stabbing me. It wasn’t too tough, because he seemed to be waiting for a specific target, my neck.
While the whole situation in the prison lingo of the day, “stunk on ice”, there wasn’t much I could do. The evidence was gathered, the reports written, but somewhere between the administration at the facility, the Michigan State Police and or the PA’s office, they called a halt to any prosecution of the inmate in order to keep him quiet about the motive for the assault.
I got a fatherly chat from a State Trooper familiar with the case on Easter Sunday of 1995, that confirmed my suspicions regarding whether or not the attack had been a premeditated hit or a spontaneous attack by the convict.
Bottom line was the trooper was on a mission to let me know, “what time it was.”
Next came a campaign by the shift commander to get me to sign on a sky-diving event she was trying to arrange amongst the adrenaline junkies working at Alger Max.
I didn’t count myself among them, but she continued challenging my manhood as I continued to demur and eventually the whole skydiving event collapsed. Nobody jumped.
I held fast to my beat on the yard, but the chronic pain and my pill habit was beginning to take a toll. I could barely sleep nights in spite of the Vicodin I was taking when off duty and had my doctor up my Xanax script to compensate for the nerve wracking impact of sleep deprivation.
During the daytime I was sticking with Darvocet and caffeine which seemed at the time to allow me to maintain the necessary “edge” while on the job.
One of the downsides of prescription painkillers is that they serve as a powerful appetite suppressant as well and with the stress of the chronic pain and my near round the clock schedule I was noticeably dropping weight, to the tune of about ten pounds a month.
Wasn’t such a bad thing initially, as I was north of 220 on the DOI, but when I had to hit the warehouse for smaller summer uniforms, folks began to notice. By the beginning of June 1995, I was nearing my ideal chart weight and looking downright anorexic alongside my fellow yard dogs.
It was part activity and part change of diet. I’d abandoned the “free lunch” of the dining hall and was carrying in my own meals to eat in the lunchroom in the administration building. My nerves were a bit edgy from the lack of sufficient sleep and the atmosphere was more relaxing there than in the dining hall and the air conditioning was a definite plus, as June of 1995 was much warmer than the average, here in the U.P.
It was just after I finished my break, I was called to the control center and reassigned to a transportation detail to take an Aspen Unit convict who was having cardiac symptoms to the local E.R. by Alger County Ambulance.
With maximum security prisoners, every ride off site requires two armed staff accompanying the inmate so John Ely and I checked out our sidearms and met the ambulance in the sally port.
We wheeled the convict into the Munising Memorial E.R. and that’s when it hit me. At first it was just a bit of nausea. DR. Said decided that the prisoner needed more than he could offer at Munising, which I thought quite odd, because he seemed to me like he wasn’t in any real distress, so it was back into the ambulance and off to Marquette General Hospital.
It’s only a 40 mile ride from Munising to Marquette, but I didn’t think I was going to make it. By the time we got to Marquette General I was feeling and likely looking worse than the allegedly ailing convict. My guts were boiling and at the first opportunity when we arrived I hit the restroom to toss my cookies and dump a gut.
In spite of the air conditioned hospital cool, I was sweating bullets and the temporary relief I got from the first round was exactly that, temporary.
I’d gone from feeling fit as a fiddle, to “I wish I hadn’t drank that whole case of beer sick” in an hour and a half. To this day I’m not certain as to the substance used, but there’s no doubt, somebody spiked my lunch.
I’ve heard Visene can be an incredibly effective gastrointestinal irritant and wouldn’t have been too difficult to get into the administrative building.
Doesn’t really matter now, but I wasn’t sure that afternoon whether or not I was going to be able to carry out my duty or become a patient in the E.R. myself.
With the benefit of hindsight, I’m fairly confident the latter was the plan.
Regardless of the perpetrator(s) and their intent, it was my last day on duty that summer as Yard 3 and the onset of an extended “stress leave” for me that summer of 1995 that burned up almost all of my accumulated sick leave.
Sometimes no Peace