He focused on contacting his wife. "If I can get to Jen, she can get some help," he remembers thinking. Goetz helped him to the jailhouse phone, but when he reached Jen, it was as if his brain was stuck in first gear. He kept repeating that he needed help, but he couldn't carry on a conversation, couldn't grasp what she was telling him. Some of his words wouldn't come out at all. Suddenly, he was no longer talking to her; he was on the floor. While Goetz got on the phone to talk with Jen, a deputy and a nurse helped Ken into a wheelchair and took him back down to the medical clinic.

Ken told the charge nurse there that he thought he was having a stroke. She ran a couple of tests and then said that he was just experiencing an anxiety attack. She gave him Gatorade and sent him back to his unit to sleep, noting that he "walked around in [the] clinic with no issue or complication." But at that point he could barely walk, Ken says, and needed a wheelchair to make it back upstairs.

Because of his dizzy spells, Ken was moved from his upper bunk to an open lower bunk in another part of the unit. While he lay in bed, girding himself for the next wave of pain and dizziness, the man in the next bed introduced himself as Mike, and said he had been a licensed emergency medical technician. "I've been watching you all night," Mike told Ken, and then walked him through his own, informal series of neurological tests. The results — the right side of Ken's face appearing flaccid, his right hand demonstrating a much weaker grip, one pupil far more dilated than the other — left little doubt in his mind, Mike says now: "These were classic signs of what I would say is a stroke."

Ken McGill told his wife he was having a stroke; she didn’t hear from him again for three days.
Anthony Camera
Ken McGill told his wife he was having a stroke; she didn’t hear from him again for three days.
Attorney Anna Holland Edwards says that nothing her client had done “justified being treated as though his life didn’t matter.”
Anthony Camera
Attorney Anna Holland Edwards says that nothing her client had done “justified being treated as though his life didn’t matter.”

"You are a human being," Mike remembers telling Ken. (He asked that his last name not be used because of ongoing legal matters.) "You need to stand up, and you need to scream that you need to be seen by a doctor."

Ken didn't seem able to do that — so Mike did it on his behalf. He got out of bed and approached a deputy, risking punishment for being up and about after evening lockdown. "Ken is in bad shape," he said. "I think he is having a stroke."

"Who the fuck are you?" replied the deputy. "Are you a doctor?"

"I was an emergency medical technician," said Mike. "This is a dire medical situation. This man needs a doctor now."

Finally, the deputy relented. For the fourth time that day, Ken was taken down to the medical clinic.

He would never return to the unit.

*********

Back in the medical clinic, Ken did what his wife and Mike had told him to do: In tears, he insisted he was having a stroke, demanded to see a doctor, demanded to go to the hospital. As a nurse would write in his medical chart, he told them that "it feels like my whole [right] side is dead."

It's just an anxiety attack, the nurses kept telling him as he spent the next several hours on a gurney in an observation room. In his medical records, they noted that his pupils seemed normal, his grips were equal, his speech was "slowed, not slurred," his gait was "guarded," and that he didn't have a headache. When Ken told them he couldn't swallow the Gatorade he'd been given, one of nurses poured out the liquid and told him to use his finger to scrape out and eat the sugary residue left in the cup. When he said he needed help getting to the bathroom, he was told that wasn't their job, that he could manage it on his own.

"In my opinion, I was a burden to them," he says. "It felt like not one person in the whole place cared."

At one point, it felt like his throat was closing up, and Ken had to shout to be heard. It sounded like he was yelling at everyone. Looking back, Ken figures that was the last straw for the nurses. A little before two in the morning, they told him he would be spending the rest of the night in the SHU — the jail's Security Housing Unit, also known as solitary confinement.

"It is literally the darkest place in the whole jail," Ken says of the basement-level chamber where he was placed. The only light came from a faint iridescent bulb overhead, bathing everything in an unsettling blue hue. It was the same cell where Austin Sigg, charged with murdering Jessica Ridgeway, is currently housed.

"The SHU is not disciplinary," says Techmeyer, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesman. "It is for inmates who might be at a higher risk than the general population." The SHU also has a full bed, rather than just the gurneys in the medical clinic's observation rooms, so it might have been a more comfortable place for Ken to spend the night. That is, if the bed hadn't already been occupied by another prisoner.

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17 comments
eslyter
eslyter

I work in prison health care in both long term and short term settings.  Based on the information presented, I could kind of understand not being sent out after the first visit (although I'm fairly certain even I, as an NA, would have checked for stroke symptoms during that assessment).  But there's no excuse for not getting that man out during the next assessments.  Every nurse I work with would have done a better job than those in this story.  Yes, working in a prison, it can be difficult to tell whether or not someone is expressing legitimate symptoms.  I have met many stroke patients and many stroke fakers.  I have also met my share of medical and security staff that are inappropriately ignorant and even aggressive towards inmate patients.  Private prison healthcare is no easy task, but I know that if this had occurred on the yard I work, it simply would not have happened this way.

bookbabe
bookbabe

Shame on everyone involved. In my four years working on an inpatient psychiatric unit, I worked with many nurses and had a fair amount of contact with police who were bringing in, and on occasion remaining on the premises to guard, patients. I met many great police officers and worked with some great nurses, but I have also seen and worked with some who should not be doing those jobs, period. I have seen mentally ill patients receive delayed medical attention: their complaints were dismissed and ignored because they were "psych". I've no doubt this is common in the prison population as well - they're crazy, they're criminals, so they're looked at as malingerers, as well. Perhaps it's burn-out; maybe it's just a basically callous and cruel character. Whichever the case, these officers and medical staff - particularly the medical staff - failed egregiously to do their jobs. I hope this man can not only sue the institution, but can civilly sue the individual employees as well. Name 'em and shame 'em. I sure hope he wins.

melekalikimaka
melekalikimaka

What do you expect from a country that puts the highest percentage of its citizens in jail than any other country in the world? In order to house that many people you need private corporate prisons with private corporate healthcare thus getting this result. Just like the old mental asylums we have guards and healthcare workers alike thinking all these people are animals and don't deserve any compassion and deserve every bit of abuse the workers can dish out. The bottom line is what's most important here, there are shareholders to answer to so the prisoners are just income, paid by us taxpayers, and nothing else.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

With Chambers GONE in Arapahoe, Jeffco wants to regain it's title as the as Colorado's MOST crooked, FUCKED UP, county ! A title they proudly held til Chambers was furloughed from hell !

wrobert.weller
wrobert.weller

This represents our entire law enforcement system. They cannot even deal with a prisoner who suffered a stroke, let alone stop two Boston bombers when tipped by the Russians. Salazar let the Jeffco deputies off in the Columbine case. Ebel gets let out four years early. A warning from Holmes' psychiatrist results in no action. The Virginia tech killer had given many warnings. God forbid you are a law-abiding person, though.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

i'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, ideally with the author's full name. if that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

nlday
nlday

another clear example of the privitazation of government duties to profit driven corporations.   thank you WALL STREET, and the system of capitalism that puts MONEY before people.!!!   what these people endured, for the 'crime' of actually not hurting anyone other than themselves, is abominable.   classic duty staff on the jail payroll, with their own ignorance and lack of training too! 

gerneblanston
gerneblanston

" The strapping, six-foot-three 44-year-old had played competitive soccer for more than twenty years and liked to ski moguls....." AND DRINK & DRIVE!! Multiple DUI's...I've got no sympathy for this repeat offender!

Randy144
Randy144

How obvious is this story.

Any resident of Jefferson County with any foresight at all knew that the Jail expansion would turn out like this. Expand the Jail facilities to handle more prisoners. The expenses go up, the profit for Jefferson County goes up. An obvious fiasco created by Jeffderson County waiting for this type of scenario.

They clearly denied this man the most basic of medical attention. A 4th grader knows the signs of a stroke, and they cannot give this man an aspirin or powdered aspirin under his tongue and get him to a Hospital.

This is unforgivable, and the Jail and the Medical Staff should be sued and should lose in Court.

But will they will ever get to Court?

They probably have no liability for this debacle. They can deny this man the most basic of human rights in a Jail in America, and they will end up spending money on Attorneys, and keeping this out of Court for years.

I ask only one thing. Put me on this Jury.  Please.  I would award him Millions for the injustice alone.

Incompetence in Jefferson County. Nothing new.

Blatant incompetence in Jefferson County.  Nothing new.


What a sad, predictable, and tragic story of incompetence and a true lack of humanity by these people in Jefferson County.

Shame on them all. 

I do admire the courage of the Doctor, speaking up and telling the truth. There are brave people out there. He should be proud of his honesty.


Randy Brown


eslyter
eslyter

@melekalikimaka In my experience working prison healthcare, it is unfortunate that the state can't afford to support its own medical programs.  And it is true that there are so many people with physical and mental conditions that make them unfit for a prison setting.  It is also true that there medical and security staff that lack compassion and understanding towards inmates.  But you should know that there are also many wonderful members of nursing and security staffs.  Nurses and assistants who bust their assess twelve hours a day to make sure that their patients get the best medical care that they can provide them.  It is hard work that not many people in the medical profession are willing to do or are capable of doing.  You work in understaffed facilities with sometimes very dangerous patients.  Sometimes they fake illnesses to get special treatment, injure themselves to score drugs, or give you nothing but abuse and disrespect when you're trying to save their lives.  But I and the people I work with keep going back every day because we know that for every person taking advantage of the system is a person who really needs help.  Don't forget about the human elements in this complex, difficult, and dark system.

Randy144
Randy144

@gerneblanston  

 drunk driving charge from 1992 doesn't deserve a life of semi-paralysis. Not in a civilized society.

gerneblanston
gerneblanston

@Randy144 @gerneblanston I know you're not saying he was in jail when this happened from DUI in 1992...he was in jail when this happened because the previous DUI's and punishments were not enough to deter this habitual offender from doing it AGAIN. Maybe a higher power is sending him and all others a message. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time and all othert consequences that come with it. I only feel some sympathy for his family because he has chosen to put them through this. It is ultimately his fault!

gerneblanston
gerneblanston

@wrobert.weller @gerneblanston If you don't like the penal health care system, then stay out of the penal health care system. It's as simple as that. The fact that he is a repeat offender means he did not learn anthing from the previous times he chose to break the law. I have the right to be safe when driving the roadways of Colorado. This jerk chose to endanger the lives of the law abiding citizens. Lucky for us he didn't hurt anyone(multiple times). He should have made better choices. Now he has to suffer the consequences. The penal system should be a deterrant to crime and having crappy health care is a good start.

jnancedesign
jnancedesign

@gerneblanston @Randy144 "He gave his car keys to a designated driver, but at some point in the revelry he wound up with the keys again."

What I want to know is who the douche bag designated driver was who gave him his car keys back!?

Seeing as how this particular DUI happened a mere 21 years after his 1992 incident I wouldn't call it habitual.  I would call this instance more a failure to see that a chosen designated driver clearly had little to no responsibility.

I worked with Ken a year and a half straight side by side in very close quarters and have spent, in some cases, days and weeks in a row together.  We are best friends to this day.  He was very open to me about his past from the very beginning.  However the only things I have seen in him is his honesty, passion for his work and love for his friends and family.

All that to say, the article is about an inept health care system within correctional institutions not Ken's past.

Jon Nance

EdisaurusRex
EdisaurusRex

@gerneblanston @wrobert.weller Perhaps he should have plea bargained his DUI to something less serious in your view, like Manslaughter.



 
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