Shazam! You’re Cured!

By Mike Powers

Most of my adult life, and because I spent most of my teen years morbidly obese, I've suffered with severe arthritis in both of my knees. And I've had four corrective surgeries, and even though I need knee replacement surgery, the fine physicians here at UTMB Correctional Managed Health Care don't want to pony up. You'll recall that the last stop-gap measure they tried was two braces that literally disintegrated with normal use after two weeks. (By the way, it's not because of weight anymore. I'm only 250 pounds right now.) But guess what! This week, even though I don't feel any better, I was apparently cured.

I know this because Nurse Practitioner Janet M. Haney sent me a Provider to Patient Communication letter. It stated that she had made a “thorough review of my medical records at the behest of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and as a result, “my bottom row restriction is not medically necessary. Woohoo! Man, was I excited. Immediately, I ran over to the stairs that lead to the second level. The jabs of pain I felt while running should have been a clue, but dadgummit, if the docs say I'm cured, I ought to be cured, right? Wrong. By the third step, there was no question in my mind that their thorough review didn't include asking me how the old knees felt going up a flight of stairs. In fact, their decision was made with no personal consultation whatsoever. There was no initiating event for this action - no exam, no x-rays, nothing.

Have you ever had to go to the courthouse to pay your taxes or over to the DMV to get or renew your license? I'm sure you have. You know how infuriating all that useless bureaucracy is and how agitated you get after a couple of hours in line? Sadly, friends, yes, sadly I have put my whole life inside the DMV! People not competent to work at McDonald's are running my life. (No, offense, guys. Love your Big Macs!) Pimple-faced teenagers tell me when I can go in and out of my door, and medical personnel that couldn't find a job at a vet clinic hold my life in their hands. Ack! I know. I know. “You brought all this on yourself." Yes, that's true. But give me this, at least. Remember I've been eligible for parole since 2012 and they just won't let me go. But I digress.

The bad part of this is that I'm one of those guys who likes to know how things work, how the parts fit together to make the machine run. Over and over again, I've been completely stymied by how or why the TDCJ arid friends, including UTMB, do the things they do. If I was outside the system looking in, I'd be continually amazed, but as it is, stuck inside it, I'm perpetually perturbed.

Maybe when you were a kid, you had a dad kind of like mine. When I wanted to know why the refrigerator light always came on when I opened the door, he told me all about the little Eskimo that lived in the hidden recesses of the freezer. His only job was to run to the light switch and flip it whenever someone was opening the door. He survived, my dad told me, off of tiny portions of the leftovers we put up in the fridge. He had me for a little while, but not for long. And now, faced with this situation as I've been thrown up against so many like it during this 13+ year run, I don't believe in the refrigerator Eskimo anymore, but I believe in the TDCJ gremlin. He lives in a basement office deep in the bowels of a Huntsville red-brick unit. He has kind of a BINGO-type roll cage down there, or maybe a high-falutin' random number generator. But however he does it, his job is to choose ten or twenty inmate I.D. numbers every day and randomly strike them with utter stupidity to wreak havoc into their lives... into MY life! His existence must be a carefully guarded secret even from other TDCJ officials, since when asked why these things happen, the best you get in reply is, “I don't know. There's also a thinly-veiled, “And I don't care," behind that, too. Of course, they don't. This isn't their life. They draw the paycheck and head for the front gate. But don't they ever get tired of the questions. Wouldn't you think that Ms. Haney, the Nurse Practitioner in this particular question, would tire of questions like, “What the HELL are you doing? I mean, why should she be scorned just because the gremlin set her up for failure. Shouldn't she take matters up with the proper authorities and tell them,“This imp is ruining my good name! Alas, no. Instead, they take up the gremlins cause with ferocious zeal. (High-pitched cackling.) “I'll get you my little pretty, and your bottom row restriction, too!" Brutal, man. Just brutal.

One thing I've learned: While the ACT may seem random, the fallout is always swift and deliberate. If they randomly take your bottom row restriction, you can rest assured they've already got a top row bed open and waiting for you somewhere. There's no method to the madness, but there's method AFTER the madness.

The optimist in me won't let me pack up my stuff, but the realist in me has already started planning the move. Sometime this week, I'll probably be kicked up stairs. The real kicker is that, if I go to see this woman, and she won't reverse this random decision to screw up my life, my only recourse is to get back on the [expletive deleted] chain bus and go to the house of horrors in Galveston otherwise known as John Seely Hospital. (By the way, if you become a public figure of some renown, NEVER let them name a prison facility of any kind after you.) How any medical professional can put somebody on that bus and not flinch in anguish at the violation of their Hippocratic oath, I can't say, but may the TDCJ gremlin someday draw THEIR number.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez