Sep. 12, 2019


When I worked in the jails, we had tons of inmates coming in and professing to have allergies. Most of them just wanted special treatment. It truly was their narcissism acting out. We had one inmate, Shawnese, who was so full of allergies that in order to receive proper nutrition, he was going to have to get a bedtime snack (the goal—extra food).

I caught him though when he insisted he had an allergy to peanuts (believable). “The only thing I can give you at bedtime is a peanut butter sandwich.”

“No, I can’t have that,” he insisted. “Don’t y’all have lunch meat up in here?”

“No, we don’t,” I answered quite plainly.

The officer laughed and said, “Where do you think you are: at a K&W Cafeteria?”

“Well, I guess I’ll take the peanut butter then,” the inmate said with a sigh of resignation.

“Uhm, no, you won’t. I’ll have the kitchen send you some graham crackers,” I insisted.

He was mad! I also noticed on his list of allergies, that he was allergic to eggs. Shawnese insisted that I provide him with pancakes and waffles for breakfast and not eggs, and certainly not cold cereal, either, as he was also allergic to milk.

Shawnese watched me tick off general foods the kitchen that he could not have and noticed I check marked “cake,” as something he could not be given and to substitute it with a fruit cup. 

‘Why you check marking cake?” he asked as he leaned in to view the list a little more clearly.

“Oh, cake isn’t the only thing I’ll be check marking,” I replied as a matter-of-fact. “I’m also checking pancakes and waffles. You’ll get toast with some kind of meat and fruit cup in the mornings.”

The officer leaned him back from me as he was too close. Shawnese got really irritated and asked, “Why? I just told you no eggs or milk, why the hell you taking away the only thing I can eat?”

“Because, Shawnese, pancakes and waffles are made with milk and eggs. If you’re allergic, you can’t have either of them.”

He got up and walked out of my office. He was so furious. It took him a week on my special diet to come back and admit to me he had lied and just didn’t like the food so he was trying to have it catered to his tastes. You don’t say!

Johnny, another inmate insisted he was allergic to eggs and even accepted no cake, no pancakes, or waffles. However, when the swine flu was going around and I was having to vaccinate all of the inmates, I called him down and asked him about it point blank.

“I’m not going to change your diet,” I explained, “But I need to know if you’re really allergic to eggs, because if you are, I cannot give you the flu shot so, if you want it, you have to tell me that you’re not allergic to eggs.”

My favorite inmate allergy was Jodie’s. She came into medical with “severe pain,” and fighting back the tears. She was so convincing that I was almost duped. I was truly on the fence with whether or not she was in real pain.

I called the doctor and asked him to order a narcotic. The fact that I even asked for a narcotic spoke volumes. As a rule, and the head nurse, I did not allow narcotics in my medicine cabinet unless I was forced to so, my asking for it shocked him.

“Yeah, sure,” he said sounding rather surprised. “Call in and order for Tylox and give it twice a day for… how long do you want to give it?”

I did not, under any circumstances, liked “as needed” narcotics, which he knew. “How about three days? She should probably be out of here by then,” I answered.

“Okay, three it is. Call it in.”

When I called her down to tell her, she was getting the Tylox, the officer almost fainted (everyone in the jail knew my policy on narcotics).

“I cannot believe you are going to give it to her,” he said in surprise,

“What it is?” Jodie asked.

“It’s Tylox. It’s a good pain pill,” I explained.

“I cannot have that,” she replied. “I’m allergic to it. The only thing I can really have is MS Contin… morphine.”

“But…” I started.

Jodie cut me off. “Look, I’ve had Tylox before. It’s a big red capsule, right?” I nodded as I sat there dumbfounded and listening to her. “Yeah, they gave that to me in the hospital and I coded. They had to do CPR and bring me back from the dead. I’m telling you, Michelle, I know what I can have and unless it’s morphine, I can’t take it.”

I sent her back to her pod with my apologies. I wasn’t able to provide her with anything more than Tylenol. Tylox is a morphine derivative.