Friday 16 July 2021

A Grave Tale!

         This is a true story.  Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty, most of whom are dead. However, I  know at least one is alive, so we will adopt the convention!

          It was all about Dr Graves of international fame as the discoverer of thyrotoxicosis, also known as Graves Disease.  A bust of the Great Man decorated the main atrium of the Hospital in Dublin in which I trained and the statue was atop a broad flight of concrete steps.  Graves was worshiped with all the respect due to a deity.
          Dean Eltree, was an older medical student from Vancouver, BC, who had come to Dublin to study medicine.  He was a nice guy, who everyone liked to poke a little fun at, because he was considerably older than the rest of students, and also because as one of the few students who had a car, he spent a lot of time polishing his little old Ford convertible.
            That night, a motley crew of students were heading back to the hospital after a good night at the local pub.  All three sheets to the wind, the older ones were handling their booze a little better than their younger colleagues.
            "Let's do something with old Eltree's car," Tom Snowdon said, in a loud self-assured English accent.  "I'm so fed up watching him polishing and nursing it, I think it's time we taught him a lesson."
            "Yes, let's let the air out of his tyres," Pete Sangster responded.
            "For God's sake, Sangster, don't be so bloody childish.  Can't you think of anything more original than that," Snowdon responded scornfully."
            The rest of the noisy group suddenly quietened down, wondering where this was going next.
            "Why don't we carry his stupid little car up the steps and deposit it in the main lobby of the hospital.  That would certainly create a little pandemonium in the morning." Snowdon said.
            Hoots of drunken approval emanated from the group.
            "We'll get into terrible trouble if we're caught," Steve said.
            "Don’t be such a funk," Sangster said contemptuously.
            The herd mentality was kindled and there was no stopping them now.                                                               "Do you think we can lift it?" Sangster asked.
            "Let's give it a try," an anonymous voice suggested.
             As many pairs of hands as could fit squeezed around the little car and tried to get a good grip on some lifting point and heaved.
            "It's as light as a feather," another responded.
            Twenty or so, able -bodied students lifted the car and slowly carried it up the twenty - eight concrete steps that opened onto the main lobby of the building.   Others held the large lobby twin doors open, while the car was quietly placed in the centre of the lobby.
            "It looks wonderful there," drawled Ronny Snowden, "but it would look much better if we put that bust of Robert Graves behind the steering wheel."
            "Christ,"said Steve, "all hell will break loose."
            A contemptuous glance from Snowden, while  a couple of his followers struggled to get the bust into the front seat behind the steering wheel.
            "Let's put a scarf around his neck and a cap on his head, just to complete the picture," Snowden added.
            One of the more fashionable members of the group volunteered his scarf and rather racy hat which he carefully arranged to give the long deceased Graves (he died in 1853) a decidedly sporty appearance.   Even Steve had to admit that the effect was dramatic.  They stealthily withdrew to the students residence before releasing their whoops of apprehensive delight at their daring act.
            Steve awoke in the morning slightly hung-over and reflected on the previous nights action.  He got up as quickly as he could, anxious to see the damage.  He walked out into the courtyard.  About twenty maintenance workers were laying wooden planks in parallel tracks down the concrete steps.  The car, with Dean Eltree sitting behind the wheel was purring gently, having just been driven through the twin doors and was now being secured by ropes attached to the axle, so that it could be lowered slowly down the parallel planks to street level.  A large crowd stood in small groups at various vantage points around the courtyard.  Some laughing, some talking in hushed tones.  Dean was now anxiously supervising the maneuver to make sure his beloved car wasn't damaged.
            The next morning Steve was in the line-up that the students and interns were ordered to attend.  The perpetrators were exhorted to turn themselves in, like decent human beings, so that the entire class wouldn't suffer the consequences for the desecration of the venerable and internationally respected [except by us!] Robert Graves.  We unanimously decided not to  be decent human beings, knowing that there's safety in numbers. No-one claimed responsibility and there were never any consequences. 

Thursday 15 July 2021

The Toilet Paper Revenge & Jailbreak.

 The Toilet Paper Revenge.

A visit to the psych centre.

 Our visits soon became routine. we had regular clinics 3 times a week and responded to calls twenty-four hours a day. One or more students or residents attended the clinics to learn how to deal with these difficult and often manipulative patients. The variety of patients were extreme ranging from the xxy ( the bad guys in old monster movies ) who you wouldn't want to meet in the back alley on a dark night, all the way to clean-cut, well-groomed even in prison garb, inmates. All the usual complaints that occur in any practice presented, as well as a large number of manipulators who came to the clinic with some ulterior motive that could range from the desire to get hold of some illicit medications to getting hold of some item of clothing that had become popular (and 'fashionable') among most of the prison population. For instance Nike runners were a high prestige item and inmates often demanded them for painful feet or low back pain. They were often aggressively specific in their demands and they were loyal to brand names so that a cheap trainer would be quite unacceptable to them. Their response, when they were not given what they want could sometimes be violent. Such demands could run right through the institution and if an inmate managed to manipulate such a prescription there would be an avalanche of people with foot pain and lower back pain all needing Nike shoes. Eventually, when I was presented with such requests I had a cover story that they could only be prescribed by a specialist in Orthopedics and I would be glad to arrange an appointment for them but that the waiting time would be about a year. That worked very effectively and usually stopped the request.

  One of the common situations was an attempt to obtain narcotic drugs by feigning symptoms. They thought that would result in a prescription for what they wanted. They had other schemes to obtain drugs that they could not get prescribed for them. Visitors entering the institution were screened very carefully because they sometimes smuggled in illicit medications. Indeed the inmates were so successful at getting medications illicitly that the staff carried out searches from time to time. The inmates were cleared out of their cells and a spontaneous search would sweep through the institution looking for narcotics and other drugs. Many drugs were discovered on these searches and on one occasion a search revealed a partially completed homemade still to distill alcohol. Although it never actually succeeded in producing any alcohol, its manufacturer's had made significant progress in its construction before being discovered.

  Some of our students were attractive young women and in an all-male institution of this sort, this naturally aroused considerable interest and necessitated careful security precautions

   Some of the inmates were only temporarily remanded while a psychiatric assessment was carried out. Those individuals were sometimes released into the community. When they did not get what they wanted, some of these inmates would level threats at the psychiatrists, physicians and or nurses. I recalled one such individual who issued a threat that when he got out he would ‘get’ me. As he was only being held on remand and it was likely that he would be out soon, it left me feeling a little uncomfortable. Shortly thereafter he was discharged. Not long afterwards, I came home one night to find that the trees and bushes in my front yard were draped with toilet paper and my front room windows were smeared with toothpaste spelling out some obscene words. After cleaning up and considering who was responsible, It occurred to me that it might be the individual who had previously threatened me. I went along to our local police station to report damage and danger. I explained the background and that I worked in a maximum-security prison. The police sergeant said, " They didn't do much damage, you were lucky they only used toothpaste and not paint.”

  I pointed out that it was not the property damage I was concerned about but the potential danger to my family and myself.

 “ Oh well, we'll have a patrol car cruise around your cul-de-sac once in a while and keep an eye out for anything strange.” He didn't seem worried at all. The end result was that my neighbour who had a trailer parked outside his house on the street in our cul-de-sac found a fifty dollar ticket on it a few days later.

 "Strange "he said to me.`` It's been parked there for ages and I never got a ticket before. "

  I didn't tell him it was because I'd asked the police to keep an eye on our house. I guess they thought they might as well ticket his trailer and have something to show for their trouble. Fortunately nothing ever happened and I never did find out who the perpetrator was, but when my colleague suggested that he lend me his shotgun for a while in case any murderers or rapists break into my house I gave it serious consideration.

The Break-out. (Almost).

  As I entered the RPC one morning, there seemed to be a lot of commotion at the entry gate with a line up of individuals with various business to complete waiting to get in. By this time I was well enough known to the guards to push my way ahead to gain entry. There were a lot of officers there.

  "What's up," I asked. "What's the big hold-up?"

  "One of the guys tried to break out and he managed to get into the area between the inner and the outer fence. He was just starting to climb the outer fence when Gil showed up with a shot-gun, lined him up in the sights and told him he better get down or he'd be shot."

  "I'll bet he did as he was told" said I.

  "He did," said the guard.

    I walked across the courtyard and entered the building. As I approached the clinic I saw Gil, sitting at a desk, typing earnestly with two fingers.

  "What are you doing there? " I asked.

  "You heard about what went on this morning ? I'm just writing up my report."

  I started reading over his shoulder.

  "the prisoner had managed to get over the inner steel chain fence and had made his way to the outer fence and had begun climbing it to make his way to freedom. I pointed the shotgun at him and said 'please step down immediately or I will have to shoot you.'

   I laughed because I knew that Gil didn't talk like that. "Okay, what did you really say?"

   Gil laughed right back and said, " I said 'drop, fucker, or I'm going to waste you! He dropped!'"

  I attended the RPC for seventeen years and that was the closest we ever got to a jail break!


Tuesday 6 July 2021

Corrections Canada. Pt.2.

 The Regional Psychiatric Centre. Corrections Canada.Pt.2.

Walking the Walk.

 After passing through the metal detector, the metallic clunk of the lock being released on the inner door, allowed the visitor to begin the long walk across the courtyard to the main building. As I walked across the courtyard I noticed a pretty cozy-looking tiny house to my right that spiked my curiosity. I had to find out its purpose. It seemed all pink and fluffy.

     "What's that little fairy tale cottage over there all ?" I asked.

   The guard, whose name was Gil grinned. "We call that the 'Fuck Hut', er I mean the 'Love Hut'" he said. "That's where the poor deprived prisoners, er, I mean inmates - they don’t like the erm prisoners here,spend the night for a cosy little interlude when the wife or as they say nowadays ‘significant others’, comes to visit. They can't be denied their conjugal rights, you know."

   He laughed again. "One guy's wife phoned a couple of weeks ago to know why he was being allowed to bring in a hooker who swore she was his wife. It's not a bad life here once they get used to it."

   As I approached the second set of security doors, I wondered if I was going to have to go through the same routine again but they were expecting me and a loud clunk sounded as someone in security who had been following our progress on multiple video cameras, sprung the release. The tightly controlled security nerve centre, to which I was only admitted once by a friendly guard, was very high tech and any part of the institution could be monitored in detail or locked off, if deemed necessary. Once inside the building, the guard behind the desk said, “Hold on a minute doc, and we’ll take you on a guided tour of the institution and wind up in the clinic where you'll be working.  I’ll show you around and introduce you to the clinic nurse who'll be working with you.”


   The circular corridor was divided into sections so that any area uprising could be instantly isolated to prevent spread.   The large steel gates unlocked noisily as we approached each section and locked equally noisily after we had passed through.

  " Very smooth," I said.  Canadians were efficient in those days and did what had to be done.

  Inside the circle of the building was a large central area where the prisoners were allowed to exercise and in the centre of that area was a beautifully landscaped cultivated area. I noticed one or two men picking daintily at the edge of the turf.

  "The prisoners do a really nice job of maintaining these gardens," I said to Gil.

   Gil laughed at me again. "This place is maintained by the biggest and best landscaping company in town, Doc. I wish I could afford them. The only prisoners who work in the garden are those who request to do so, provided they are not considered too dangerous. Prisoners can't be coerced into working and those who volunteer have to be paid."

  We stopped at a point in the corridor where a locked door on the left had a sign that read 'General Medical Clinic'.Gil pressed a button and spoke into a speaker. "Okay, we're here at the clinic. Let us in."

  Again the loud clunk of unlocking. We walked in. I looked around the clinic area. This clinic looked better than my family medicine clinic at University Hospital! The clinic itself was well laid out, no intrusive security precautions apparent and better equipped than my office at University hospital. Corrections Canada is federally funded never seemed short of money, whereas health care provincially funded was always in need.

     "This is your Nurse, Doctor Smith,” said the guard, introducing me to Heather, a pleasant young woman who looked about fifteen years old and who wouldn't have weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. I have a daughter who is a nurse and I couldn't help thinking I wouldn't want her working here. It was a hazardous job but Heather turned out to be a fearless young woman who seemed to manage two hundred and fifty pound six foot two giants comfortably.  Thought I, she’s a better man than I am!

  "I hope That you always have adequate security when you're working in this Clinic.

  “ Oh yes, I have my belt alarm,'' she said, indicating the gadget attached to her belt. “All I have to do is press this button and there's someone here right away. Most of the time there is a guard right in the room with me."

  "I think that we'll have to change that a little and tighten up the security. When we are seeing patients there will be a guard in the room at all times and if it is a patient with a violent history there will be two guards in the room and another just outside the door in case we need it.”

  "Well there is patient confidentiality to consider, some of the guys don't want anyone hearing about their personal problems," Heather said.

  You bet they didn’t!

  "In this situation I think our safety is more important than patient confidentiality so the guys will just have to suck it up. If there's any problem with that then we need a meeting with management.  Further,if there are investigations or treatments that can't be done here at this institution and patients need transfer to university hospital, facilities will have to be developed to move them promptly, observing all the appropriate precautionary measures necessary. Because these guys will have to be handcuffed and ankle cuffed when they're being taken over to University Hospital and two guards and a driver will be necessary to undertake the journey safely.” 

    After inspecting the clinic, the team, which had now grown to include a couple of administrative bodies, continued on to inspect the living quarters of the inmates.  Each prisoner had what we in the competitive outside world would call a studio apartment.  Some of my patients who worked hard trying to make a decent living did not live as well as these inmates.

  Next, the nurse shepherded us into the dining room which was more like a middle range restaurant than a jail.

  "The staff can eat here too, so if the clinic runs on a little late you could save a little time and then go on to your office, "  said Heather, and then added,   "You should try to make it on a Thursday," she smiled, "because on Thursday we get steak!  That’s a rule.  Steak once a week”.


Who said 'crime doesn’t pay?'.