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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 21.0° F  Overcast
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Nurse denied medical supplies in Capitol shutdown
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Laura Nessler, left, and Ruth Fox.
Laura Nessler, left, and Ruth Fox.
Credit:Bill Lueders

I saw Ruth again today, and met her for the first time. I even learned her last name: Fox. I knew Ruth from last Thursday, when I was in the Assembly chamber, watching Republicans table amendment after amendment proposed by Democrats -- all of them, it turns out.

Ruth was one of the people introduced from the floor by Rep. Nick Milroy (D-Superior). He explained that she had stage 4 colo-rectal cancer and was one of the people who would be affected by the changes in Medicaid eligibility that are part of Gov. Scott Walker's bill. He said she considers the action of the 14 Senate Dems to leave the state as "a stay of execution." He also introduced her husband Jeff, a disabled rights activist who uses a wheelchair.

Milroy pointed to the couple and said: "Thank you for helping us put a face on what we are about to do here." The Republicans in the chamber joined in the applause, with Rep. Howard Marklein of Spring Green rising to give a standing ovation, moments after he voted to table an amendment to protect them.

Today Ruth is in the Capitol Rotunda. In fact, despite her illness, or perhaps because of it, she's been there every day since last Thursday, when this sorry drama played out. She's slept on the Capitol floor.

Yesterday, Ruth was so cold that she sought emergency help. Paramedics arrived, and she asked them to take her vitals -- pulse and so forth. According to Ruth, they refused. "They told me I would have to go to the hospital. I said I'm not leaving."

Since then, Ruth has received some medical attention. Laura Nessler, a registered nurse from Viola, Wis., has been checking her vitals all day. "They're pretty good now," Nessler reflected, heedless of HIPAA.

Nessler, wearing a "Walker is a weasel, not a badger" T-shirt, told me how she got into the building this morning. She was in the crowd of hundreds milling outside, being denied entrance, when the call went out for a medical professional. "They said they needed someone" with medical training; she came forward to help. The doors opened for her.

Among the people Nessler said she's treated today was a woman who reported being "manhandled by five police officers." Nessler did a DAR -- Data Assessment Response -- and wrote a report documenting what the woman said and what Nessler observed. The woman had visible swelling on her right forearm and pain in her lower back.

Nessler told me how sorry she is to not have her medical supplies. She said she has a bag in her car with a stethoscope and other items that might come in handy. I couldn't believe anyone would deny her access to these, and I walked back with her to one of the building's entrances. We spoke with the officers there providing security, with whom I had earlier had a cordial exchange.

The officers said that if Nessler were to leave the building she would not be allowed back. One added that she would not be allowed to bring in her bag of medical supplies.

Anyway, that's how these officers understood their orders. It was suggested that Nessler try talking to security at other entrances. I don't know if she did. I saw her a moment later, back in the Rotunda, talking to Ruth.

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