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Ken McGill left jail behind, but he can't escape the stroke he suffered there

See also: Read the lawsuit from the inmate who suffered a stroke in jail and wasn't treated for 24 hours

Ken McGill left jail behind, but he can't escape the stroke he suffered there
Brian Stauffer

Jen McCracken was watching television when the phone rang that evening. The call was from the Jefferson County Detention Facility, where her husband, Ken McGill, had been incarcerated since July for a DUI. Ken would often call from the jail, leaving her short, sweet messages when she wasn't around, asking about her day when she was. But this call was different.

"I think I had a stroke today," he said. Ken didn't sound right; his voice was quiet and slurred, tinged with fear and confusion. "I need you to help me."

"How am I going to help you? You're in jail, Ken!" Jen yelled frantically into the phone. She was miles away in Denver — and since she'd worked as a correctional officer at Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, she knew how the system worked. From the outside, there was nothing she could do.

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.”

"I need you to call them, Jen, and tell them something is wrong," Ken begged. "I keep telling them; they keep taking me downstairs, and it's not doing anything."

"Tell them you need to go to the hospital," said Jen again and again during the conversation, which was taped, as the jail does routinely with all phone calls (it saves the tapes for two years, in case they're relevant in criminal matters). "Obviously, they can tell by the way you're talking something is wrong."

Ken's response was unintelligible, tangled in his throat. "I can't understand a word you are saying," Jen told him.

Ken tried again, slower: "Something. Is. Really. Wrong."

"When did this start?" she asked anxiously.

"This morning, at eight o'clock." Ken struggled with the words. "And all day it's been getting worse and worse. I can't feel the whole right side of my body now. And I can't even talk. I am scared to death."

"They need to take you to the emergency room," Jen told him. "Why don't you say, 'I think I am having a stroke. I can't feel the whole right side of my body.'

"The hospital is literally around the corner," she continued, thinking of St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood. "They have to call the fucking ambulance for you."

"Hold on," said Ken. "Hold on." Then he was gone.

"Hello, hello?" A new voice was on the line, one of the other inmates. "This is Vance. I came in with Ken. Um, something is wrong with him." Then Vance Goetz was gone, too. Over the phone, Jen could make out the muffled sounds of activity and Ken crying. "I think he had a stroke," she heard Goetz telling someone, followed by more commotion. "Can somebody help me over here?!" Goetz yelled. "I need help! Help!"

Then Goetz was back: "The nurse is here now." He took down Jen's number and told her, "If I hear something, I will let you know."

And just like that, the call was over. Jen tried to convince herself that everything would be all right. "He will get the help he needs," she remembers telling herself. "He is with the right people, and they will do the right thing."

See also: Read the lawsuit from the inmate who suffered stroke in jail and wasn't treated for 24 hours

*********

Ken McGill's problems had started that morning, while he was working his inmate job as a member of the kitchen staff. Just after they'd finished preparing breakfast, he began feeling dizzy, the room spinning so badly he could hardly balance.

Ken wasn't used to feeling sick. The strapping, six-foot-three 44-year-old had played competitive soccer for more than twenty years and liked to ski moguls. Nor was he the kind of inmate to make up stuff to cause trouble. Fellow prisoners describe him as an earnest, friendly guy who fit in easily among the eighty men in his low-security jail unit, most of whom were incarcerated for drinking offenses and other fairly minor crimes. Ken was keeping his head low, doing his time, counting the days until his expected release in mid-November.

When the dizziness didn't subside, Ken requested to go to the jail's medical clinic. His kitchen supervisor asked if he could wait until after lunch, and Ken agreed. He'd always been a hard worker. Growing up in Morrison, he'd barely graduated from high school, but then he started driving heavy equipment for construction companies — "You just play with real, live Tonka trucks all day long," he'd later say — and worked his way to upper management, preparing bids for multimillion-dollar jobs around the metro area.

Yes, he'd gotten into trouble with the law, including a couple of DUIs in the late '80s and early '90s. But he was struggling with abandonment issues, which he'd had since he'd learned he was adopted; it didn't help that when Ken turned eighteen, his adoptive parents sold their house, bought an RV, and set him up alone in an apartment while they traveled the country. "I felt rebellious," Ken says of that period. "I felt like I didn't have any direction."

He found it when he met Jen in 1993. They've been together ever since, and he raised as his own the son she already had, helping Jen deal with the young boy's bipolar disorder. One time, when the child was eight, he lashed out so violently — stabbing his teacher with a pencil and attacking his babysitter — that in desperation, Ken slapped him. "I don't know if anything else would have helped in that situation," says Ken. "He was out of control." But his stepson's teachers noticed the mark on his face, and Ken ended up with a misdemeanor child-abuse charge.

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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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