Oct. 4, 2019

Magnesium Citrate

When I first started working in the jail, the officers brought me an inmate who was so severely constipated he’d not gone to the bathroom in three days. He was practically doubled over and in tears. Instead of coming to me willingly, though, the officers had to force him. At first, I thought it was embarrassment, but I was wrong.

“You’re just like the other nurse,” he said in disgust. “You don’t give a damn about any of us in here.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about the other nurse’s practices so I cannot comment, however, let me have a chance and let’s see what I can do? If I can’t do anything, no harm, no foul,” I offered. “Does that sound fair?”

He agreed and without hesitation, I handed him a bottle of magnesium Citrate.

“How much do I drink?” he asked as he studied the 10oz bottle of laxative.

I took a second look at him hunched over and answered, “All of it.”

He looked like he was going to argue, but decided against it and drank the whole bottle then asked how long before it would work. I assured him it should start working within an hour and explained that it was an oral enema. Since he was a kitchen worker, he went back to the work in the kitchen.

Two hours later, he stops by my office after delivering some lunch trays to the cell blocks. “It’s been two hours and nothing has happened.”

“It will,” I reply with confidence.

The inmate scoffed and said before leaving. “I knew it. You’re just like the other nurse. You don’t give a damn about us inmates here!”

I felt bad and called the jail doc. I told him what was going on and asked if I could or should give anything else.

“Nope. It will work,” he answered. “If he hasn’t gone by tomorrow, I’ll send him over to the ER for an impaction removal, or you can do it, if you like. That will shut him up.”

Fifteen minutes later, one of the officers brought me a note from the inmate: “Sorry! I can’t get off the toilet now. Can you send me something to make it stop?”

I sent back a note: “NO! If you go three times, I might slip you something to make it stop, but until then, keep going.”

After which, he never questioned me again and I was surprised at how nice he was to me afterwards. He went out of his way to bring me lunch carefully prepared just for me.