The officers guarding Ken refused to let him call his wife because of security concerns; nor would they give him the jail's medical-release form, which would allow them to provide information to Jen. Finally, two days after he'd arrived at Lutheran, he was given a phone to order his lunch from the hospital cafeteria as part of his therapy, and he saw his chance. He called Jen.

Now here she was, hugging him as he lay in the hospital bed — although the guard soon arrived and escorted her out. The next day Ken was transferred to Boulder Community Hospital; again, Jen was not notified. And another week would pass before she heard anything more.

"That's what hurts me the worst," says Ken. "Knowing my family went through two weeks of hell." Finally, on September 27, he refused to continue therapy at Boulder Community Hospital until he was allowed to call Jen. Jail officials relented, and Ken let his wife know where he was. The next day, there was another development: Thanks to Jen's efforts, Jefferson County Judge Verna Carpenter had granted Ken early release.

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 free — although he didn't feel like it. "I feel like I got the worst sentence possible," he says. "I feel like I've been served a life sentence."

*********

Ken walks back and forth, back and forth across the floor of the physical-therapy clinic he visits several times a week, slowly tilting his head up and down as he takes each careful step. He's doing this to help recalibrate his internal equilibrium system, since his stroke destroyed part of his brain stem, leaving him with difficulty balancing. For Ken, the therapy isn't easy. He hesitates and stumbles as he puts one foot in front of the other. "I've been really dizzy this week," he tells his physical therapist, Christina Mulholland.

"The day you come in and don't say you're dizzy, I'll do cartwheels," Mulholland replies.

After the session, Ken has an appointment with his doctor to obtain more of the medical patches he wears behind his ear. The patches ease the vertigo he's been dealing with since he first felt dizzy in the jailhouse kitchen last September, but they leave his neck red and irritated.

Dealing with the repercussions of the stroke "has become my full-time job," he says. Along with dizziness and balance problems, he suffers from constant fatigue and has a hard time concentrating; his right arm is plagued by limited motion, weakness and pain. His slurred speech has improved, but he still speaks in a quieter, more hesitant tone. And the once-active skier can't be in the cold for more than a few minutes before it feels like he's freezing.

Jen's life has changed, too. "I feel more like a caregiver instead of a wife," she says.

Even if he had time for a job between all his appointments, Ken says he can no longer work in his field: His dizziness would be a liability on construction sites, and his mental lapses prohibit him from doing the complicated construction bids he used to prepare. "I can't live the life I used to live," he says. "I just don't know what my future is going to hold for me."

Ken's physician, Alan Schultz, says this outcome might have been avoided if Ken had been treated in a timely fashion. "We have a saying in the medical world that 'time is tissue,'" he explains. "And when somebody has a stroke, it's matter of minutes, not hours, that actually makes a difference. Brain death starts at four minutes, and cells are basically toast at ten minutes."

And the jail's medical personnel waiting more than sixteen hours after Ken's noticeable signs of a stroke, such as slurred speech and facial droop, appeared before sending him to the hospital? "That is a debacle of medical care," says Schultz. "It is absolutely asinine."

That's why Ken and Jen have filed suit against Jefferson County, as well as Correctional Healthcare Companies and several of the CHC medical personnel who worked at the jail. Their lawsuit alleges that those involved were negligent in failing to address Ken's obvious medical needs and interfering with his wife's ability to participate in treatment. The suit also claims that they violated Ken's civil rights under the Eighth Amendment's "cruel and unusual punishment" clause, which entitles prisoners to adequate medical care.

"I find the facts alleged in this case to be particularly outrageous," says Anna Holland Edwards of Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, the Denver-based law firm representing the couple. "We as a society do not convict people to a time of abandonment in medical crisis. Ken was serving the time, taking responsibility for what he had done. Nothing he had done justified being treated as though his life didn't matter."

Holland Edwards knows that the medical needs of a jail inmate might not be the most sympathetic of stories these days, especially since many Americans who aren't behind bars have their own problems with health care and health insurance. But as she points out, "Jail is one of the few places where you don't have a choice for health care," she says. "The combination of law-enforcement power and deficient medical care is extremely dangerous, because prisoners cannot act for their own welfare. They can't just go to another doctor if they are being abandoned in a crisis."

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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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