Friday, December 17, 2010

Its a lot easier to get out of jail than to get in...

Or at least that is the case when you are a medical student shadowing an OB/Gyn at the county jail.  Today, I woke up at 5AM to start our day of seeing female prisoners at 7AM.  While I was walking from the parking garage to the jail (its still dark out, mind you) some homeless man in a shady corner asks me what time it is.  Now, I am usually pretty polite to strangers, but sorry, I'm not about to stop by myself in a creepy, dark abandoned street to make myself vulnerable to be mugged so I just told him "Sorry, I don't know!" as I keep walking my normal brisk pace.  And he goes, "Do you have an iphone?!"  BAHAHA okay dude, obviously you don't have the best of intentions if you care how expensive my phone is.  Anyway, it was fine.  I just kept on walking.

Last week I had to get fingerprinted and fill out a few forms to get cleared and make sure I wasn't some crazy (understandable)... Today, I got to the jail early, but I didn't really know what to do because the doctor wasn't there yet.  So I went though some metal detectors and put my stuff through x-ray machines while I waited for her.  When she arrived, we got my visitor's security pass and headed upstairs.

So I don't know about any of you, but I have never been in a jail before.  I really had no idea what to expect.  I thought there would be cells with old fashioned bars like in the movies, but I didn't see any of those.  Instead, most of the cells are like the ones you see on prison documentaries or on Gangland (shout out to Amanda and Juliette, you guys woulda loved it).  It was really interesting to be on the inside.  There were cameras everywhere and you had to stand in front of the doors and wait for them to open them for you when they saw your face on the cameras.

I wasn't sure how the patients would be, or if they would be "dangerous", but I was pleasantly surprised that they were all very polite and not scary.  I think a lot of them were there for drugs, not necessarily violent crimes.  I was really impressed with the care that the women inmates were given and specifically the birth control options they had.  The patients had a general demeanor of respect and appreciation for the physician and nurse, and I thought that was really cool.  It was really cool getting a glimpse into what  inmates are like, and their outlooks on their reproductive health.  The doctor was telling me that some of the patients will determine their pregnancy plan (whether they continue or terminate) when they find out how far along they are because that tells them who the father is, which I thought was an interesting aspect of this particular patient population.  Also, they usually live lifestyles that put them at a much higher risk of STIs, so I got to see a few of those.  It really surprised me that the doctor looked at the vaginal discharge right then and there in the microscope!  I thought that kind of stuff was sent to a lab now-a-days, but it was awesome that she knew what she was doing.  I got to see some Trichonomas swimming around on a slide... pretty gross stuff, frothy discharge and all!  (Lesson to all to wear a condom)  One girl was 30 weeks along and had used meth early in the pregnancy, but the doctor was just super non-judgmental and I thought that was really cool.  All in all, I got a LOT out of my day at the county jail.  Not only did I learn a lot medical-wise, but I also learned a lot about what its like in jail and about the people who are in it.  I hope to go back again soon! :D

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