A prisoner at Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility says she nearly bled to death last week because of inadequate medical care after she suffered a miscarriage.
Sherrie Medlock, 39, who is locked up at Michigan's only women's prison for a parole violation, said she had to lie in a pool of her own blood for more than two hours Thursday, before she was finally able to see a doctor who ordered her rushed to an Ann Arbor hospital by ambulance.
Medlock told the Free Press in a phone interview Monday that the massive and uncontrollable bleeding happened after she complained for nearly two weeks about cramping and bleeding following an apparent miscarriage.
"I've never seen that much blood," Medlock said. "They let me lie on the floor for two hours, and it was coming out like a faucet.
"I was praying. I thought I was going to die."
The Michigan Department of Corrections won't discuss health-related issues about specific prisoners, due to federal health privacy laws. But when asked if there was an incident at Women's Huron Valley on Thursday involving an unidentified prisoner who experienced uncontrolled bleeding following a miscarriage, department spokeswoman Holly Kramer released emailed statements confirming certain details of what Medlock said, while making no reference to bleeding.
Kramer said staff were notified shortly after 7:30 a.m. "of a prisoner who was in the bathroom and needed assistance," and an ambulance was called to the prison more than two hours later, at 9:43 a.m., after "she was seen by a doctor ... (who) determined she should be transported to a local hospital for further care."
Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti. (Photo: Paul Sancya, AP)
Kramer's statement made no reference to Medlock lying on the floor bleeding during the interim, but said "the prisoner was being seen and treated by MDOC healthcare staff" during that time.
The prisoner was taken from the bathroom to a health care area near the housing units before she was taken to the doctor and "she was never alone and bleeding for an extensive period of time," Kramer told the Free Press Wednesday.
"The prisoner had access to mental health care services following her experience," Kramer said.
The prisoner "had been seen by facility healthcare staff previously for a suspected miscarriage," and her care was being overseen by the prison's onsite obstetrician-gynecologist, she said.
The Free Press has reported extensively on overcrowding at Women's Huron Valley, as well as problems with leaking roofs, restricted access to day rooms, and a mysterious and persistent rash afflicting some prisoners. The newspaper has also written about excessive forced overtime for female corrections officers, which prompted a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department and overworked officers that the Michigan Corrections Organization union describes as a safety hazard.
Medlock arrived pregnant at the Ypsilanti-area prison in early September after she said she tore off her electronic tether amid a short-term mental breakdown while working at a Pontiac coffee shop. That led to a violation of her parole conditions from a 2011 Oakland County assault conviction she earlier served time for, according to Medlock and MDOC records.
Medlock said prison health officials confirmed her pregnancy but gave her an ultrasound on Sept. 11 and told her they detected no embryo heartbeat or movement. Prison health officials told her they expected the human tissue from her pregnancy would pass naturally from her body and no medical action was necessary, she said.
Medlock said she began bleeding and cramping and repeatedly told health officials she was in pain, but she said they told her what she was experiencing was normal.
Last Thursday morning, Medlock said she went to the bathroom and blood "just starts pouring," she said. She got back to her cell but continued to hemorrhage as she lay on the cell floor, trying without success to use a series of towels to stop the blood.
"I felt light-headed," and "I couldn't even climb on my bed," Medlock said. Also, "I was so embarrassed and humiliated."
She said she repeatedly asked officers to take her for medical treatment, but that they told her the doctor didn't start until 9 a.m., which was about two hours away.
At 9 a.m., Medlock said officers used a wheelchair to take her to the doctor, but she had to wait in a room there for another lengthy period, "wrapped in three adult diapers," while the doctor saw other patients, she said.
When the doctor finally appeared, he took one look at her and ordered the staff to call an ambulance, she said.
The ambulance took another 20 minutes to arrive and one of the attendants told her she had a blood pressure that measured 68 over 42, she said. Normal blood pressure is about 120 over 80.
The ambulance transported her, sirens blaring, to St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor, where doctors performed an emergency D&C (dilation and curettage) to remove the contents of her uterus, she said.
She signed paperwork to authorize a blood transfusion but doesn't know if she received one, she said.
Medlock said she was back in prison later the same day, where she learned other prisoners were required to clean up her blood.
"I know that they knew for four weeks that there was that embryo in my body," she said. "When I started bleeding 12 days before, I feel like they should have done something."
She said she's speaking out because: "I don't want this to happen to somebody else."
Medlock also has a 2005 cocaine conviction, records show. She said she did not use drugs during her recent pregnancy.
Kramer said prisoners who are pregnant when they arrive at Women's Huron Valley "are seen routinely by healthcare staff and provided care to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery."
She said most prisoners who arrive at the facility pregnant deliver their babies. Of 35 prisoners who arrived pregnant this year, four miscarried and one paroled while still pregnant, she said.
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.