Everyone experiences trauma in life and heals or doesn’t heal in different ways. On Friday the 13th in 1989 I experienced significant trauma as a prison doctor when I was taken hostage, assaulted, raped and rescued by a SWAT team who shot and killed the inmate a few feet from me. When I tell the story I make the point that it was the compassion of the inmates that helped me heal, but that’s not the whole story.
What if you returned the next working day and the free staff -custody officers, administrators and staff didn’t really say anything to you? At first you’re still in shock, but after a while how would you feel? --- That they didn’t care? That they didn’t know what to say or do? That they wanted you out of the prison?
Not knowing or feeling safe is not what you want to experience when you enter a prison and hear those iron gates clang behind you.
A year went by before any staff asked me about the hostage experience. I still remember the day. I was ending my lecture on occupational exposures and blood bourne pathogens in front of a new group of custody officers when a female officer raised her hand and asked, “Dr. Gedney, I heard you were taken hostage can you tell us what happened?”
It was the first time any free staff in the prison asked me that question. What I said moved some to tears and others to reconsider whether they wanted to work in a prison and why I still worked there. After the class the training officer, CJ, who had been a Vietnam Vet came up to me and said, “You need to tell that story to heal and they need to hear it.”
CJ was right. Every time I told it I felt the knots in my gut and the clenching around my heart lessen. It also gave me a different perspective. Instead of being a victim, I could use the event as a storyteller, a teacher and someone who promotes compassion.
If you’re interested in why I chose to stay 3 decades in prison after being taken hostage and turn it into a calling, check out my memoir, ’30 Years Behind Bars,’ Trials of a Prison Doctor. On Amazon or DiscoverDrG.com