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I wish I could say this type of thing is anomalous, but instead it borders on commonplace.

Okay, I gotta get outta here, but the fresh sheets for Bryson in five are in his room on the desk. You just gotta make his bed.” Allen was addressing the nurse assigned to the infirmary.

Inmates stay in the infirmary temporarily as they recover from surgery or a severe illness. The infirmary is also where terminal inmates spend their final days. Allen was merely a porter whose sole duties were to sweep, mop, clean, and launder bedsheets for the more feeble patients. Though it wasn’t his responsibility, Allen had a big heart, so he often went above and beyond by entering the realm of patient care. He stripped and made beds, changed bedpans, helped men into and out of the shower, assisted those with adult diapers who needed to dispose of a soiled pair in exchange for a fresh one. Allen sat with the dying to show them some basic human kindness in their remaining days.

photo by imagerymajestic
photo by imagerymajestic

Emergency Count
An emergency count had been called for the prison, so Allen had to leave his job assignment and go back to his cell house immediately. Before leaving, however, he wanted to ensure that his adopted duties would be completed in his absence. At first, the nurse didn’t appear to have heard him. Allen opened his mouth to repeat himself, but the trained healthcare professional finally looked up from his magazine of Hollywood gossip and grimaced a sour smile in Allen’s direction accompanied by a curt nod of acknowledgment. With that, Allen was gone.

As is most often the case, the emergency count turned out to be merely a drill enacted by the warden to test the efficiency of his staff in case they were ever faced with an actual emergency. Due to staff shortages and his scheduled off days, Allen didn’t make it back to the infirmary for four days.

Four Days Later
The first thing that Allen noticed upon returned to work was that the usual antiseptic smell of the infirmary had a much more feculent and urinal aroma to it. He went about his duties cleaning and sanitizing, all the while seething about his lackadaisical coworkers and the inept nurses. When Allen arrived at room five, he found the fresh bedsheets exactly where he’d left them before the emergency count. Inmate Bryson was slouching on his plastic-encased mattress in a puddle of his own mess because his adult diaper was well past the point of needing changed. Perhaps as much as four days beyond that point. Bryson’s body and mind had been compromised by age, dementia, and the golf ball-sized brain tumor which would soon take his life.

True Compassion
Allen escorted Bryson to the shower where he helped remove all that was soiled and sat Bryson on the stool in the shower. After disposing of the refuse, Allen was back in a flash with shower accoutrements and clean clothes. Under Allen’s supervision and persistent directions, Bryson managed to cleanse himself thoroughly and Allen assisted with the drying and dressing. Once Bryson was seated in a wheelchair and secured in the corner of his room, Allen sopped up the puddle of urine from Bryson’s mattress and disinfected it with bleach before wiping it dry and affixing the clean linens to it. Bryson’s sporadic, muted, and incoherent mumblings were all the thanks Allen received.

The same nurse was at the front desk to the ward, reading a different publication of celebrity obsession. Allen did his best to temper his anger and frustration as he spoke.

Hey man, you didn’t put Bryson’s sheets on his bed like I said.” The nurse nodded slightly without turning his attention from the magazine. “And he’s just been sitting there in his own piss and shit.” Allen’s voice was rising in volume, partly for emphasis and partly because he was having trouble controlling it. The nurse finally pulled his eyes from his all-important study material, sighing heavily, and looked at Allen with a vapid gaze.

Yeah? And?” Even though the nurse’s response was technically in the form of a question, it was evident that he had no interest whatsoever in hearing more on the subject. His unmitigated lack of concern was unnerving to Allen.

Allen wanted to smack the nurse right in his entitle, uncaring face. Allen wanted to scream at the nurse and cuss him out with extreme vitriol. Allen wanted to beat the nurse until he was as helpless as some of the patients that he ignored. Doing any of those things would’ve landed Allen in Seg for sure, possibly worse. Instead, he swallowed it all and went back to help people. The nurse returned to his magazine.


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