Dear Editor: My name is Tania Le’June Washington, and I am a prisoner here at the Central California’s Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California.
I am so scared right now and feel compelled to raise awareness about the lack of medical treatment for women suffering from Lupus during this pandemic.
After a year-long battle with immune system complications, I was finally granted a Lupus Panel. On December 22, 2020, I received notice in the mail from our medical department that said I’d tested positive for Lupus and would receive a follow-up appointment with a Rheumatologist. It is now April 2021, and I have not been seen by a rheumatologist or a Lupus specialist.
Lupus is a lifelong autoimmune disease that can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other ailments. It causes your body’s immune system to attack your own tissue and organs. Inflammation caused by Lupus can affect different body systems including the brain, heart, red blood cells, kidneys, lungs, skin and bones If untreated, it can lead to fatality.
Lupus is hereditary and was passed down to me by my father, who passed away from the disease in 2010. It is now progressing throughout my body, triggering asthma, fatigue, joint pain, and swelling in my breast and lymph nodes.
Recently, I had a follow-up appointment with an RN at CCWF and explained my frustrations about the lack of care I was receiving. He laughed and taunted me, saying, “Aw, prison sucks huh?” We argued for five minutes before I ran out of his office, feeling helpless but not hopeless. Sure, we are in the middle of a pandemic, but does that mean that our needs for medical care go un-met?
On January 6, 2021, two women still battling Covid were forced out of quarantine and re-housed and assigned to my room. CCWF has eight-person cells with a shower, toilet, and two sinks. It is impossible to socially distance. With the growing inmate population, the wave of positive cases goes up and down, causing the inmates to be displaced once they leave quarantine. These women were still sick. They were coughing and experiencing shortness of breath. The officers who moved them in the room didn’t check to see if I was listed as a chronic care inmate. In my condition, if I catch Covid, I may not survive it.
Luckily, my regular housing staff came in the next day and moved them out of my room. Close call right?
But what’s next? With the fourth wave of the Covid variant approaching and the lack of medical remedies to treat my Lupus (at least until someone calls the specialist to come and see me), I am a sitting duck. Surely CDCR has some kind of treatment plan for men and women suffering Lupus, right? I was not handed down a life or death sentence in prison, yet I feel as if this may be the last place I see if I don’t receive help soon. Thank you.