It was a nightshift like so many before and so many after. It was a such a well-known routine I could have done half asleep.
This one, though, was to be different. This one was to change me.
I remember not the time, but I was called by Control to attend the South Unit and see to a prisoner. Upon my arrival, I dropped the trap on the cell door and looked in. What was before me was a scene that not even in my wildest imaginings, could I have envisioned.
I had been involved in many First and Second Responses during my years of service, and was a member of the Prison’s Black-garbed Tactical Operations Internal Response Unit.
I had seen stabbings, bashings, slashed wrists, broken bones and the aftermath of aggression, violence and rape. I had seen my fair share of blood
I had been spat at, had faeces and urine thrown at me, been sworn at and threatened with violence, had threats of harm made against my family, been involved in violent confrontations but nothing prepared me for this.
But here let me digress a tad and give you the protocols of dealing with
that which confronted me:
Control had to notified of the situation,
a First Response with Medical had to be called
and a second Officer had to attend the Unit before the Cell was broken open.
This I did by radio, all the time never taking my eyes off the sight that was before me.
The time that it took for the second Officer to attend the Unit was but minutes, though to me it seemed like hours, as I watched a man bleed out. A man whose path I had crossed a few times, but not a man I knew well.
As I gazed fixedly into his cell I started to take a mental note of all that I saw. The blood-splattered walls, the congealing blood on the floor, that the prisoner had dragged himself through to reach the call button in a vain attempt to save his life.
I never want to have to watch a man die that way again. To look into the eyes of a dying man is to look into the very soul of that person.
To watch him slowly expire and not to be able to do anything to try to save him, will haunt me for the rest of my days.
When the second Officer finally arrived, shortly before the Medical Response Team,
and we cracked the cell the prisoner was, as far as we could tell, beyond saving.
Walking into that cell is still vivid in my mind. I still see it so clearly in the nightmares that haunt me to this very day.
I took it all in, the orderly and purposeful preparations. The way that the prisoner had neatly wrapped all his clothes and valuables in plastic to protect them being stained by his blood. The smell of death hanging in the acrid odour of blood. The way my service boots stuck to the floor, held fast by the coagulating blood of a man who could not cope with prison life. A man who felt that the only way out was for him to cut his femoral arteries.
No, my friends, I never again want to look into the eyes of a dying man and see the terror and the pleading look, begging me to do something, anything to save him. Protocols. Bloody protocols stopped me from doing no more than watch him die.
But his pleading look will never leave me, for as long as I live.
May God have mercy on my soul.
Artist, Writer, Photographer, Father, Grandfather, Poet, Biker, a lover of Women.