My thoughts returned to the present. His eyes closed, Elijah was making feeble movements with one of his arms. Over and over he would reach down toward his feet.
The movement drew forth an unforgettable memory for me. I was thirteen and a German Shepherd had just been slammed into by a speeding car. Unconscious on its side, blood matting its fur and pouring from it's nose and mouth; its limbs were making weak jerky paddling motions as if still answering some last instinctive impulse to flee.
Fifteen minutes had passed since the guards left our door. I swore under my breath. What was taking those damn medical staffers so long?
Twenty minutes passed. I went to the window in the door. Still no sign of anyone. Twenty five minutes passed. This is sheer madness! I paced the cell floor.
At thirty minutes I renewed my pounding on the door. Again, concerned inmates joined in my calls for help. Our collective yells of "Man Down!" thundered throughout the building, yet no one came.
My hands would become swollen, voice hoarse, and fifteen more precious minutes would disappear before two guards came to see what the emergency was. These two guards were from the day shift and remembered Elijah's poor condition from the previous day and acted quickly.
Fear, anger and frustration overwhelmed me as I watched them carry him away on a stretcher. He was now as still as a corpse. An ambulance rushed him to an emergency room at a local hospital. I was unable to discover more than that.
Outraged at his cruel treatment, the following day I fired off letters to Governor Schwarzenegger, the state Inspector General, a state senator and a federal judge. I provided copies of the letters to the chief of the medical staff at our prison. Hopefully, if Elijah survived, the extra attention (or threat of it) would ensure he received adequate medical care; and if he did not, then at least prison officials would find it difficult to bury.
Most importantly, perhaps these letters would prevent other inmates from needlessly suffering similar, shameful neglect that could cost them their lives. I operated under no delusions about the letters. At the California Correctional Institution--Tehachapi-- reprisals from prison officials were as prevalent as the stale air we breathed.
I was later to discover that the first two guards who responded that bleak morning did not alert anyone to the medical emergency and merely departed for their homes when their shifts ended. Such is the callous tissue that surrounds some men's' hearts.
Thankfully, Elijah did survive his ordeal. As fortune would have it, a top notch brain surgeon happened to be on duty and successfully operated on the aneurysm that had nearly snuffed out his life. I hear he has almost fully recovered.
As for myself, five weeks later, prison officials would repeatedly target me, falsely claiming I was involved in prison gang activity and conspiracies to assault staff (there would be no official disciplinary charges) and eventually succeeded in having me indefinitely confined in solitary isolation at the infamous Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison...where I still reside.
If I had a chance to do it all over again? I think you know... I wouldn't change a thing.