Well, the program was going along fine and guys were generally upbeat because we were all near the end of our bids. Each week guys were going home and new ones replacing them. It was that way that I didn’t stay on the top bunk for long and was moved to my own cube. Heck, at this point I would have slept in the hall for my last 90 days.
Some of the program was on computer, learning the basics and how to write letters and such. Because my IO was on the computer, I was “excused” from that work each morning. Truth is, I was glad as it would have been so very repetitious for me. I felt it was humorous that for the last three years I was working on a computer, developing forms and writing letters for staff and others but computers now were verboten.
It also seemed many guys wee taking advantage of the State Health plan and getting last minute check-ups and operations prior to departure. It reminded me of my knee operation back in Utica Hospital. Because it was after basketball season and I had nothing better to do that I felt I should get my knee operated on to correct the floating meniscus that was bothering me, especially at night while sleeping – or attempting to. Ever since I rolled it back at Fishkill on the outside uneven pavement it had bothered me and seemed to be getting worse. I hadn’t known what to do, and in truth had prayed about it since it happened. The thought came on me a morning soon after the parole finding, so I felt I could use a change of scenery too I guess. I knew it would be a big deal getting everything arranged and take some time for everything to be worked out no matter the outcome. My new job in OMH was not to start for another few weeks, so now seemed like a good time, and I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to do it.
I went to an outside doctor who performed preliminary tests, then was sent to a specialist, who after reviewing my MRI, said I was on the borderline of operating or not. The tear was about 7 mm, the range where an operation might help, certainly not hurt, but could not guarantee full pain-free utilization. I felt it was worth the risk, so he ordered the operation. That would involve a special trip to a local hospital and actually would take the whole day. Other guys were going out on the same bus for various tests and procedures, so I had a good deal of practice in waiting. Each time I went out, it was a long day, with breakfast, if you wanted to eat, at 6:00, then down to the infirmary to wait for the bus. Obligatory strip search – wouldn’t want to smuggle out anything and give it to others – then handcuffed and leg irons attached, boarded the bus, then off to collect guys from the other two local facilities and finally arrive at the medical facility. Each time we went I felt I was getting better at doing nothing, practicing my non-resistance. I would often talk about my faith to others if allowed, but the CO’s usually kept us from talking, especially when they were trying to watch the television in the waiting room. Certainly on the bus talk was prohibited. So I daydreamed of life as it might be when I was finally released.
The date for my operation was set after the results of the MRI were reviewed and discussed, which involved yet another trip outside, to a real doctor. At least this time it would be a on a Van with two guards. The doctor, and I use that term lightly, at the infirmary there at Mid-State was, well, let’s just say, lacking in professionalism. He would set at his desk and talk to you about your problem, never looking at any notes or history, and not taking any notes of your symptoms or problems. Some rumors had him being fired from his previous outside position. Others had him being a failed veterinarian. Whatever, the secret was to push and push till he would recommend an outside “specialist” (never would he say doctor) to examine you and see if they conferred with his diagnosis. Right. He never HAD a diagnosis for me or anyone I knew who went there other than ibuprofen. Tooth ache? Forget the dentist, take ibuprofen. Cut? You don’t need no stinkin’ bandage, just drugs, etc, etc. I had been forewarned of his antics, so I persisted. Once I went out for an initial diagnosis, he was basically out of the picture and I simply went by the outside doctors wishes and timetable.
It was to be an in and out operation, no more than 20 minutes, the hardest part, I was told, was waking up from the anesthesia. It turns out I was to be number 4 of the 13 knee operations this doctor was doing that day, not sure how many were inmates. Of course there were two CO’s assigned to me at all times, except in the operation room. Guess they felt I couldn’t escape if under anesthesia.
So the day arrived rather quickly for state work and I was off to a local Utica hospital to go under the knife. The CO’s could have pushed my bed as they escorted me everywhere, but then I think they would have wanted double pay. The doctor came in, talked with me briefly and reviewed why we were all here (except the CO’s), even writing on my right knee “cut here” as a joke, but I think with so many on his schedule it was to remind him who and where to cut. Then I was drugged up, but not before the handcuffs that were on and off me so many times as I was prepared for the surgery were transferred to the bed. No escaping on their watch, drugs or no.
Next thing I knew I was slowly waking up. My leg was numb, but I felt good. Later the doc came by on his way to prep others and asked if I had any questions. All I wanted to know is what restrictions I had and what might speed up the recovery process. “Do everything you can, as soon as you can, as often as you can without causing any pain or discomfort if you can” was his advice. He also informed me of some stretches to aide recovery. Crutches? He advised them on an as needed basis, but certainly until I got back to the facility. After that, have fun. I wanted to remind him I was in state greens so fun was not on the menu, but felt it better to hold my tongue.
Before I got dressed, a nurse came by with paperwork and to ask me any if I had any needs. I said I was hungry since it was mid-afternoon and I couldn’t eat any breakfast prior to the operation. Thinking it would go no where, I asked if I would get a sandwich. The guards said they didn’t care as long as it didn’t take long as we were still waiting for the second inmate they were transporting to also finish. I had a real tuna fish sandwich with lettuce and tomato and chips, a real treat I must say over the usual bag lunch. I know the nurse saw my pleasure at receiving it.
Then I was uncuffed momentarily as the guards watched me dress, then cuffed my right hand to the crutch as I couldn’t very easily be cuffed hands together as when I came in. They also by passed on the leg irons that had been a fashion statement for me upon entering. Then off to wait for the one other guy, then very quickly onto the mini-van that brought us here and back home to Mid-State.
I was to stay in the infirmary that day, Thursday at least, and more if I needed. But because I was expecting my wife to visit on Saturday and bring a package, I knew I was going home Friday. I had not seen her since receiving the news of my being hit by the board, so this was an important get together.
Friday morning came, and after the paperwork was completed and I could get a nurse practitioner to release me, I prepared to leave. It would be great to get back to the Honor Dorm and my own room and bed even though I hadn’t been gone that long, it seemed like I had. I declined the crutches, and they were placed in a closet with at least 30 other pair. That’s the state for you. They could have easily taken a set with us to save, but now had to pay for more, for which the taxpayers would have to pony up.
My prayers were finally answered on what I needed to do about my knee, in God’s timing I knew, and I was feeling quite good as I walked, a little stiff legged but pain free and smiling all the way back to my dorm. Maybe following His plan wasn’t as difficult as I, and most naysayers, made it out to be. I was very thankful for what I did have and again vowed to make the most of my time left.
And that was exactly what I was trying to do now, follow His lead in all things. Of course I had to check out the basketball situation as soon as I could in the evening. Guys were picking up teams as I entered and, as usual, I was overlooked. I did recognize one guy who wasn’t a bad player but had a very big mouth, but he didn’t acknowledge me. Other than that, I had to prove myself once again. Once guys saw my game, I was a regular pick each night.
Because of the ever changing status of most inmates here, teams were being set up but constantly in flux. That proved good for me to get on a team, which was all I wanted as I would be long gone before the season was even half over. I was in good shape by now and it was so good to run and play, still running past the younger guys, most of whom smoked.
All I had to do was behave, follow the rules, work at the re-entry program and leave whole in three months time. That didn’t sound too hard, even for me. I was sure praying that all would work out for me and these other guys on our last days inside corrections.