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A deputy said he'd return with a plastic cot, but that cot never came. So Ken spent the rest of the night lying on the concrete floor, unable to sleep. The man in the bed didn't sleep much, either. "Don't die in here," he kept telling Ken. "Don't die."

While the man seemed to be struggling with psychological problems, Ken feared he might not be far from the truth. "I thought I was going to die," he says now. "I thought I wasn't going to come out of there."

When breakfast arrived at 5:30 a.m., Ken couldn't eat; his fellow prisoner consumed both meals. Finally, several hours later, Ken gathered his remaining strength and, ignoring the other inmate's claims that he'd get them both in trouble, crawled across the floor, hauled himself up and pressed his body against the cell's alarm button. When a deputy opened the door, Ken, sobbing, repeated what had become his mantra: He was having a stroke and needed to go to the hospital.

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.”

Ken was taken back to the medical clinic. A little after 9 a.m., the jailhouse doctor finally arrived. He ran Ken through his own series of neurological tests, then called the medical staff into the room and repeated the tests so that they could watch. In Ken's medical records, the doctor noted his slurred speech as well as a noticeable weakness on the right side of his body and his face — ailments Ken had been complaining about for hours but that no one else had noted. "This man obviously went through a massively traumatic experience," Ken remembers the doctor telling the nurses. "I don't know how you guys missed this."

Then he turned to Ken. "I think you are having a stroke," he said. "We will get you to the hospital."

So Ken waited to be transported to the hospital. And waited.

*********

An hour after she received the disturbing phone call from Ken on September 17, Jen got another call from the Jefferson County Detention Facility. This time, it was a correctional officer. He told her that Ken was fine, he'd just suffered an anxiety attack.

She didn't believe it. "I have had anxiety attacks," she says. "Never would they make me slur my words that bad, where it's hard to understand what the person is saying."

And when she didn't hear from Ken the next day, she knew she was right: He wasn't fine. So around 7 p.m., when she got off work from her call-center job, she went to the jail. "We transported him to the hospital earlier today," the correctional officer at the front desk told her after looking up Ken's information. "But if it was an emergency, we would have contacted you."

She couldn't get any more details.

Jen could understand why, for security reasons, the jail wouldn't disclose where an inmate was being treated offsite. But she couldn't understand why no one would tell her Ken's medical condition, especially since she was his emergency contact. "It was as if they thought if they didn't say anything, they could push it under the rug and it would be all right," she says.

She wasn't going to let that happen. She began calling every area hospital she could think of, even roaming the halls of St. Anthony Hospital near the jail. But there was no sign of Ken — until she received a voice-mail message on Thursday afternoon, three days after she'd last heard from her husband.

"I am okay," Ken said in the same quiet, slurred voice she'd heard during his call that Monday evening. "I am paralyzed on my right side...I can still talk. I am doing okay. I love you. Just hold on, baby." He said he was at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge — the one hospital she hadn't thought of. Jen left work and headed straight there. A deputy was posted at the door of Ken's room, but when his back was turned, she slipped inside. She found Ken shackled to a hospital bed, covered in IV tubes and heart-monitor electrodes.

"You don't want to see someone you love in that position," she says. "He looked terrible, like he'd lost so much weight." The right side of his face was drooping, and he couldn't seem to figure out how to put down the sandwich he was holding in order to hug her. He couldn't form the words to say he loved her.

Ken had been transferred to Lutheran from the jail — three hours after the doctor had said he was likely having a stroke. He wasn't taken there in an ambulance; he was shackled and put in the back of a transport van, where he lost his balance and fell off the seat. He remembers one of the deputies in the front laughing at him and saying, "You can quit the charades; you've convinced these people you need an outpatient MRI."

But when they got to the hospital, the MRI proved Ken wasn't faking it. At 12:30 p.m. that day, more than 28 hours after he'd first started experiencing problems, the brain scan confirmed that Ken had suffered a major stroke. When he heard the news, Ken broke out in tears, then turned to the two deputies who'd taken him to the hospital. "I am going to fucking sue you," he said.

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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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