I started reading this man's story and I was in disbelief. What a nightmare. I know a lot of us feel trapped with managing our diabetes…wait til you read his story.
At first glance, James D. Ward is not the most sympathetic figure. In 2006, he pled guilty to “delivery of a controlled substance that resulted in a death.” The substance was heroin. He already had a criminal record – he’d been caught, according to his father, changing prices at a Wal-Mart earlier that year – and he was given a 15-year sentence for the drug crime. At age 25, he had already fathered four children with four different women.
But it’s also possible to see “Jay,” as he is known, as a kind of victim, or at least someone with a horrific run of bad luck. In 2005, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was removed surgically. After the operation, he was prescribed painkillers, only to become addicted, which led him to his use of heroin, according to his father, James J. Ward.
After Jay was arrested on the drug charge, he was held in a jail in Plano, Texas. The first night he called his father and told him that his stomach was hurting. He was also thirsty and was having to go to the bathroom frequently. James J. Ward’s mother had type 1 diabetes, but he didn’t know the symptoms. Jay was taken to Parkland Hospital and given an X-ray, which came back negative, and he was returned to the jail. But his illness continued, including shortness of breath and vomiting. Days passed, until one night the Sergeant called an ambulance, and the paramedic who saw Jay had the good sense to test his blood sugar. It was 951.
Jay called his father each night, so when James didn’t hear from him, he called the Sergeant, who told him that his son had been taken to the Emergency Room. James dropped the receiver, and it was still off the hook when he returned two days later.
At the hospital, James saw his son in a diabetic coma. “They had a tube right down him,” he said. “I about died right there. The doctor wouldn’t tell me if he was going to live.”
The doctor later said that Jay had a 10 percent chance of surviving the night. He did, but now he had to manage his type 1 diabetes while in custody. His diagnosis did come with one saving grace: when he got out of the hospital, he was no longer addicted to heroin.
According to his father, Jay was innocent of the drug crime but was “sold out” by a public defender who convinced his son to plead guilty in order to receive a lesser sentence. Regardless, Jay was now facing 15 years in prison.
“I got cancer, I got diabetes, and I ended up in prison,” Jay told me in a recent telephone interview.
Unfortunately, his problems were just beginning.
What does it mean to have diabetes in prison? For starters, there are plenty of inmates with the disease. According to the ADA, of the more than 2 million people incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States, nearly 80,000, or 4.8 percent, have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That is somewhat below the prevalence rate of the general population, probably because the prison demographic is younger.
No prison will ever be known for excellent health care, but every prisoner is entitled to adequate health care – a Constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment. What’s more, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has issued guidelines for the management of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational – which are to be followed by each federal prison in America. The document, most recently updated in 2012, is 50 pages and quite thorough, covering everything from “Definite Indications for Insulin as Initial Therapy” to “Cardinal Signs of Periodontitis.” It also stipulates that frequent monitoring of blood glucose (three times a day) is optimal for a diabetic patient on insulin.
In other words, any federal prison that does what it’s supposed to do, in following its own guidelines, should provide adequate diabetic care.
Read the whole story: http://www.diatribe.us/issues/45/logbook
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