Beep, beep, beep….the rising crescendo of my page going off cuts through the silence. The number flashing up is unmistakable, trouble is afoot.
Moments later I drive up to the building, the wire topped prison walls hidden from the road. I show my passport and get issued with my visitor badge. The green light shows allowing me into the next small room where I must wait until the guard comes, the door hisses shut behind me. He arrives letting me into the security area, I put my stethoscope and pager on the conveyor belt and walk through the scanner. Only now these checks have been performed can I be led through the compound to see the patient I have been called to assess.
I can feel the extreme height of the walls and buildings around me, starkly imposed in the bright sunshine with the visceral reality of being imprisoned. I’m given a run down on the patient, and the events leading up to him now being nursed on 4:1 special obs. To you and me this means four people are required to be no further than an arms length from him at all times. This does not happen often believe me.
I have been called to this building multiple times in the last few months, the first time was 2 days into the job. I didn’t sleep that night. It was utterly terrifying. This 4 month journey has taken me through all the emotions: terror, fear and panic, giving way to anxiety, anticipation and intrigue. I’m intrigued now, who is this man?
“Would you be able to have a look at his eye”, asks one of the nurses, he’s twice my size in width and height. There’s a deal to be struck here. My proposal doesn’t fall on deaf ears. We go in together, I’m a great believer of safety in numbers.
There’s another recurring theme here. I have been mis-sold the threat. The level of anxiety generated paints a picture far darker than the reality. I go into the room to find a timid man sat on the floor in the corner. He is remorseful of his actions. On asking why he kicked off in such spectacular fashion he replied, “I haven’t got my own way all day, everyone keeps telling me ‘no’”. His child-like perception of the world reflected in his earlier tantrum. It happens the world over, only he is 100kg heavier than the average toddler. He has been in institutions his whole life; children’s homes, prisons, state hospitals. He is used to being dictated to, there have been no choices for him to make, he is not familiar with being told ‘no’.
This behaviour is all too familiar to me. He has been put on the naughty step. It’s just the scale is slightly larger. His eye is fine, it’s just the way he views the world through it that is slightly off-kilter.