I have three Federal death sentences, in addition to life without parole sentences in at least two different states (Idaho and California). But it seems now that The Universe has other plans for me.
About two months ago, I started experiencing numbness in my arm, leg, and torso, and head; on the left side of my body. I even pushed the "emergency call button" in my cell at one point because I knew something was "wrong" with me, medically; not that it did any good to push the button... after five or ten minutes a guard showed up at my cell door and asked, "What is your emergency?" I told him about the numbness and "spacy" feeling in my head, then he left and never came back; I spoke to a lieutenant that was just walking past my cell a half-hour later, but he didn't do anything to help me either (at least not that I know of).
So, I waited a few days and started keeping a written record of each time I felt similar numbness symptoms. Then, about two weeks later, I suddenly had an extremely painful headache that hurt so bad that the pain alone made me puke. So I pushed the emergency button again, and this time the guard could see I was sick, so he called medical staff, and after I told them how I felt (and about the numbness, etc.), he said he'd schedule a doctor's appointment. But instead, the next day, they came and took me to the local hospital emergency room. They ended up doing a CAT-scan, and then told me that they found a large "tumor indicative mass" in my brain. But they found no "experts" on such thing locally, so they transported me via ambulance to a brain trauma center (called "Espinazi" in Indianapolis). There, they did an MRI on my head, in addition to a full body CAT-scan (to look for any tumors elsewhere that could have been the source of the tumor in my head (they found none).
After that, a neuro-surgeon specialist came to talk to me and essentially told me they had to do "urgent" surgery to reduce the mass of the tumor (but the neurosurgeon said they'd know more after surgery when specialists would run tests on tissue samples from the tumor).
It turned out to be a "glial blastoma", the size of a man's fist, growing mostly in the right temporal cortex, and intruding into the prefrontal cortex. The neurosurgeon was called "Miracle" (not "Dr. Miracle", but just "Miracle", though sometimes I heard the nurses and other doctors refer to him as, "Dr. Miracle"). When I asked him the reason for his name, he said that he was called "Miracle" because he and his mother both nearly died when he was born (no details, other than that). He must have made his mother (who I assume is still alive) very proud, by becoming a prominent neurosurgeon.
I initially refused "treatment" (i.e. surgery) because I wanted to talk to my fiancée first, which I told them over and over. The B.O.P. refused to let me talk to anyone (not even my attorneys, or my mother, for "security" reasons). So I thought if I refused treatment (surgery), they'd return me to Terre Haute (prison) and I could at least call my fiancée, and let her know what was happening.
That night, in Espenazi, I imagined I was holding her, and I told her what was happening, and how important she was to me, especially in that moment of crisis. And then I remembered a phone conversation with her that we had had just the week before, where we discussed each other's death, and loss (of each other). It was like we both somehow "knew".
The next day, when Miracle asked me if I wanted to proceed with the surgery or not, I told him that my fiancée already "understood", and I was ready to proceed (with the surgery) and within hours, I was taken to the surgical theatre, and before I went under (anesthesia), I looked around and saw lots of monitors, computers, and other "high-tech" equipment... This was no ordinary surgery. (I was told later that it cost three quarter of a million dollars - for the surgery alone!)
The next thing I knew there were people bustling all around me and my head hurt really bad, and I couldn't figure out what was happening (confusion). Someone, a female voice, kept saying in a consoling tone, "You are okay. You just came from surgery, the surgery went well..", and I kept saying, "It hurts... Please stop, it hurts really bad...", and, "I don't know where I am...", and the consoling voice said again, "You are okay, the pain is normal, you just had brain surgery..."
Then I felt someone rubbing my right shoulder and I had a vision of an old man's hand inside of an ordinary shoe-box, and for some reason I thought the hand was a symbol of something "normal", or "ordinary" that my mind could "hold on to" in order to find my way out of the confusion. I could still feel someone rubbing my shoulder at the same time, so I told them, "Thank you for rubbing my shoulder, it helps...", and then a different voice told me, "You are rubbing your own shoulder..." Then I realized it was my left hand that was rubbing my shoulder, seemingly with a mind of its own. Weird, but things only got weirder, and more confusing after that. The pain only added to my confusion because it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I couldn't tell where it came from. I just knew it hurt.
They put me in a "private" ICU room and five well-armed BOP-guards never let me out of their sight. They even "scrubbed" and put on sterile gowns so they could watch me during the surgery.
I was in ICU for several days after the surgery. It wasn't incontinent, per se, but I did end up pissing the bed a few times just because I got confused and could not control or even feel my left hand (so I spilled the urinal - plastic bottle - accidentally without even realizing it until I felt the wet sheets). The nurses were extremely nice about cleaning me up, which I deeply appreciated. I never felt so helpless (or hopeless) in my life and that made me realize (and wish) how I could have been (like the nurses) a better person than I was, simply by caring for others. My mind today is still "foggy", so I can't begin to find the words to express what I wish I could here, about how much I appreciated the nurses, and how that made me realize... the difference between a "good" person, and a "bad" person. I don't mean to say, or imply, what a "bad" person is (like, someone who doesn't care, or something). I'm just saying that I realized a little kindness goes a long way! Really, for everyone!
I was also allowed to have ice cream, apple sauce, and /or graham crackers just by asking, anytime I wanted, which was another deeply appreciated "kindness".
They (the nurses) gave me "meds", some in my I.V., others in pill-form. I got pain pills (I don't know what, but they worked, thank goodness!), anti-seizure pills and some other pills, like Dexamethasone (to reduce swelling in the brain). I took all the pills they gave me.
For the most part the guards were polite and respectful, even with me. They spent most of the time in the room with me watching (Netflix?) on their phones, and/or talking about what they were going to do with all the money they were making (with so much overtime on this special detail (watching me)). Sometimes I felt like they were deliberately keeping me awake, by talking right next to my bed, and making other noises to wake me up if they thought I was asleep, but I honestly don't know if they were, or if my mind was just playing tricks on me. So, I decided, consciously, that it was my mind playing tricks, and not the guards, but I still don't know either way.
I do know that the guards did some very kind and considerate things for me, like adjusting my blanket (when they saw me trying (and failing) to adjust it myself to keep warm), which was inconsistent with my life's experience, and consequently ended up adding to my confusion.
I got confused a lot. Everything and everyone seemed "alien" to me. Nothing seemed "ordinary" or "normal", especially after I started hallucinating (small creepy little hands waving at me from behind stuff, and weird wavy patterns that floated in the air, sometimes with flashing bright colors, a lot like what I imagine LSD hallucinations must be like). The hallucinations didn't bother me though, because I was still rational enough to realize they weren't real, per se.
About a week after the operation, they transported me in a van by strapping me in a wheelchair in the back with full "box-cuff" restraints (that was more painful than my head!) to a special BOP hospital ward nicknamed "The Big Room" at a local hospital (here in Terre Haute). I thought of it as "the cuckoo's nest" after my first day there because of how "insane" it was circumstantially. There was only one or two other patients there who I spoke to (mostly because I was lonely) and more than ten guards, unarmed though, who occupied one entire end of the room, where they talked and played with their phones while ignoring the inmate patients (most of the time). It was a gang of bullies (mean guards) and they were exceptionally mean to me, in spite of my terminal cancer (tumor), and they made it very clear that they enjoyed seeing me in pain and suffering.
The head nurse was a real-life nurse Ratched - very pretty, and superficially nice, with a vindictive and hateful mean streak that she made little effort to conceal (she seemed to enjoy the control she had over other people's (inmate/patients) misery (by controlling their pain meds - not just me, I saw her treat other inmates the same way), and even control over when they could urinate, according to her "schedule", which was determined by her "needs", not the patients').
The doctors prescribed pain meds for me, so I could "rest and recuperate" after the surgery and before I started radiation and chemo-therapy; which I was allowed to have on request once every six hours; but, between nurse Ratched and the guards, I felt lucky to get the pain medicine at all. I was often happy just to get ordinary Tylenol.
One time, just for example, when I asked a guard to ask the nurse if I could have some pain meds, because my head was throbbing and keeping me awake (which happened a lot), the guard told me, "You don't deserve pain meds after what you did to that family" (apparently in direct reference to my crimes), and then just stood there looking at me (seemingly to enjoy watching me suffer),
Another time one of the guards told me that, "A lot of people will be very happy if you die...", with emphasis on "a lot of people".
Once after a guard kicked my bed to wake me up, then stood around my bed with several other guards talking (so I could not go back to sleep). I saw one of the guards with a ball-cap that had a Christian cross penned on the front of it. I asked hopefully, "Are you a chaplain?" The other guards chuckled and he said, "No." Then I asked, "Then are you are fake Christian [in reference to the cross on his hat] or something?" And he said, "No, I'm not a fake Christian [implying with emphasis that he was a real Christian]". I don't remember now what I said next, but I said something he didn't like, because I remember clearly him saying, "Normally I'm an easy-going guy, but if you don't watch your mouth, I'm going to beat your ass right here!" Which was a threat I took seriously, because I had already observed the way the beds were arranged with curtains between them that would make it very easy to conceal them from the numerous cameras (I counted at least six) in the room. And he made this threat not only in front of the other guards (four or five at the time, all standing around my bed for no apparent reason, other than to harass me), and in front of "nurse Ratched" (who said nothing, of course). So, I started screaming, as loud as I could, and waving my arms over my head (hoping someone watching the cameras would see me, even if they couldn't hear me), "Help! Help! I'm being threatened! Help!" The gang of bullies didn't move, but just kept standing there watching me scream for help. After a moment or so, another guard came over from someplace unseen by me (another room or area out of my view) and asked me why I was yelling, so I told him I had just been threatened (and was afraid for my life, because one blow to my head could easily kill me, so soon after major brain surgery). He told me, "You need to calm down, or you're going to end up in four point restraints". I replied by telling him, "Go ahead, I'm sure you've probably already filled out the paperwork, the same way they did for George Floyd."
(After reflecting on this incident carefully in hindsight, I've come to realize that I may well have had a dangerously close encounter with modern clansmen (as in KKK). The man with the cross on his "hood" was possibly some sort of clan "wizard", or other ranking member of the clan, judging by the way the other "bullies" deferred to him with the same sort of shallow (unearned) respect that "gang leaders" often relish, which I have learned to recognize after more than 40 years in prison. It's the kind of shallow respect that comes with rank, regardless of character. And it explains how such bullies can thrive without fear of reprisal in a system that supposedly safeguards (grievance protocols) against such behavior (i.e. threats, and violence). The bullies feel "safe", because they know the "clan" (or perhaps "union"?) will protect them from reprisals. The only thing I've been uncertain about in the past was where their sense of "protection" (from reprisal) was coming from. I used to think it was their BOP "Union", but now I think it may well be some modern organized racist clan instead, especially after one of the other nurses (who was close to nurse Ratched) made a comment to me regarding the BLM movement where she strongly implied that "blacks" should be happy that they aren't slaves anymore, and stop complaining about systematic racism (which in her stated opinion is not a "real" problem).
After all this, and after the c/o who came from "nowhere" threatened to chain me up ("four-point restraint"), yet another nurse, who seemed "neutral" (i.e. not so filled with hate as the guards), but not as genuinely kind either (as the nurses in Espenazi were), came and asked me if I needed anything, then helped me adjust my bedding (to be more comfortable) and then she asked me to calm down and be quiet for a while, to which I replied that I would, "for her" (because she asked respectful, and because she always treated me "fairly" (if not kindly). Shortly after she arrived, so did my lunch, which I accepted (from the guard who brought it, who was also more "neutral" than the rest, by saying "thank you" as I usually do, no matter how hostile the guards are (either in jail, prison, or now in the prison hospitals because I still struggle to understand, and accept, their hostility, as I wish they could understand (and accept) my own hostility (something not likely to happen anytime soon).
[J.D. November 2020]