You either clinked on this post because you know I have a penchant for odd titles or because you can’t, for the life of you, figure out what heart surgery and a car have in common – maybe both.
I just finished a conversation with a grandmother on Pine Ridge Reservation in SD, who called to find out if our organization could do anything to help with getting her car running again. I explained that we do not normally do that kind of thing because of the exorbitant costs we would incur. (Every car on the reservation could use some kind of repairs, from what I’ve seen and heard!)
But I also asked her what the problem was and why she needed the car so urgently. I explained that, while we do not do this kind of service, we have people who have connections and sometimes one person knows another who … you get the picture.
There began the 20 minute story. I am going to try to recall it as she told it, though I confess that I probably did not take enough notes and I am getting to that “senior moment” memory age. I will try to do her justice.
First, I’ll set up the story and give you some general information in case you are new to circumstances on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Most cars are old and in need of repairs. Health care is administered by Indian Health Services (IHS) and both very inadequate and of relatively poor quality. The tribe “helps” tribal members in emergencies with minimal assistance. Grandma has experienced all of this. For example, on one occasion, when she needed a blood transfusion, she was given blood from a person who was allergic to penicillin. Although it did not harm her at that time, she did develop an allergy to penicillin herself, which she had never had before.
The story she told me started with the birth Grandma’s own daughter, who is now 9 years old. When Daughter was born, both Grandma and Daughter were very sick with an infection. Within hours, Daughter was rushed from Pine Ridge Hospital, where she had been born, to Rapid City Regional Hospital. Grandma was kept in Pine Ridge, where she was given penicillin for the infection. If you are thinking “Wait a minute, she’s allergic to penicillin! Stop!!”, you get an “A” for your memory. So she got sicker before she got better. It was days before she was able to get to see her baby. By then, the baby had been moved from Rapid City, SD to Omaha, NE – they had discovered the baby had heart problems.
Grandma jumped into the car she had and drove to Omaha. When Grandma got to the hospital, her baby needed surgery on her heart. The surgery was complicated and after surgery, Daughter was in very tough shape. Suddenly a “Code Blue” was called. The doctors surrounded her baby, the nurses surrounded Grandma. She had no experience with this kind of medical care and began to cry. The nurses asked if she had anyone she could call. She called her own grandmother.
Her grandmother told Grandma to stop crying. She told her the baby could feel her despair and would be very sad. It would be harder for the baby to survive. Her grandmother told her that she had to be strong for her baby and pray. Pray! So Grandma stopped crying and prayed. Daughter survived. She still has medical care but she is doing well. We just got her a sponsor.
That experience had a profound effect on Grandma. She changed her lifestyle.
Grandma has a sister who lives in Washington state. She recently fell quite ill and needed Grandma’s help. So Grandma hopped into her current car, a ’99 Chevy Suburban and started driving to Washington with her son and her son’s pregnant girlfriend. She tried to talk the pregnant girlfriend into staying home, but the girl wanted to come. She was only 24 weeks pregnant so it should be fine.
Grandma left the 2 young people at the motel while she went to visit her sister. When she returned, she found the young woman in severe pain, bleeding profusely. She immediately called an ambulance and the girl was taken to the hospital. Then Grandma prayed. The baby was delivered weighing 1 pound 10 ounces. She was very small, to say the least! She was also very fragile. The money ran out and Grandma had to leave. The young people were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in that city. Grandma had to scrounge for enough money to buy gas and food for the drive home.
The day finally came for her granddaughter to be released from the hospital to come home. Grandma was thrilled. What had seemed foolish, the pregnant young woman taking that long trip, had been a blessing – the baby had survived because she was born in a city where proper neonatal care was available for premature babies. The baby probably would have died if she was born in Pine Ridge! And now she was coming home!
Grandma asked a cousin to travel with her and jumped into the same ’99 Suburban. As her cousin was driving during the night, while Grandma tried to sleep, the Suburban started “acting up.” It was “coughing.” Her cousin pulled over and woke her. Grandma took the wheel and realized they needed a service station as she drove. They got off the highway in the middle of the night and drove to the nearest station that was lit up. But it wasn’t lit up because it was open; it was lit up to prevent vandalism. The car would not run now. How was Grandma going to get to Washington and drive home with her son, his partner and their new baby?
Her cell phone had no service there. Grandma and her cousin pushed the Suburban (you do know the size of a Suburban, right?) closer to the building, where the found a pay phone (talk about the grace of God – when was the last time you saw a pay phone anywhere?). They called the police and told them about being stranded. This was in Gillette, WY. Well, kudos to the people of Gillette, who not only found the 2 women a place to stay while the work was being done, but also found a way to put in the new fuel pump at very little cost. Grandma was, of course, frantic because the baby was supposed to be released the very next morning. The folks in Gillette had them on their way by morning.
As they got back on the road and drove quickly (understatement) toward Washington, Grandma got a phone call on her cell phone. The doctors had decided to keep the baby one more day. Grandma quipped, “Well, I guess I can slow down a little then.”
Baby had a problem that Grandma was very familiar with. Baby had heart problems. She has a hole in the heart, where it did not grow properly and a problem with one vessel. She has had an apnea attack. On Jan 12, 2011 Baby will be going to Omaha, NE for heart surgery. Grandma will be suffering from deja vu that day — if she can get there to be with her son and his partner.
The Chevy Suburban has chosen a bad time to give up running. Grandma is told it is an electrical problem. Diagnosing the problem will cost $300. The cost of the repairs will be determined after the diagnosis. At least the Suburban chose a good place to give up the ghost, so to speak – Grandma’s back yard. It just wouldn’t start one morning.
But now Grandma is frantic. She has no money for all of this. How will she get the car repaired so she can get everyone to Omaha – you see, she is transportation for Baby and her parents as well as herself.
So I told her I would spread the word to the people I work for to see if they had any ideas.
But I am also spreading the word to all of you. This is the Christmas season. The time of giving and miracles. The time of the birth of a special baby.
I hardly ever ask for anything from my readers when I post. I would rather inform you. But this time I AM asking!
- If you know anyone in the Pine Ridge area that can help Grandma with these repairs quickly, send me a message.
- If you want to help create a Christmas Miracle, go to ONE Spirit and use their PayPal connection to donate for Grandma’s car repairs (be sure to put a memo designating that). The website is http://nativeprogress.org
- If you can’t afford to donate, PRAY, as Grandma’s grandmother told her. Pray for a Christmas Miracle.
- If you can do none of these things, I will pray for you, since you probably need it more than Grandma.
I know that none of us can do Christmas Miracles alone. But if each person does what he or she is able to do, that is indeed a miracle. A Christmas group miracle.
I believe that you care.
I pray that you will show it.