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Archive for the ‘Drunk driving’ Category

In all the chaos and hurry of trying to get everything cleaned up on my desk and in my inbox, I was stopped in my tracks a couple of days ago.  I was reminded of why I do the “work” I do.

I received a call from a Jane Doe, woman on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Okay, that’s nothing new for me.  I talk to a lot of folks there.  Jane is a woman I have actually visited and with whom I have spoken quite a few times.  She is a pleasant, soft-spoken woman who is  a wheelchair bound paraplegic, the result of being rearended in an auto accident by a drunk driver.

You would think Jane would be worried about herself and the fact that she lives in a small, non-ADA compliant apartment.  But several months ago, she told me the story of her two nieces.

Both her nieces are adults.  Both of them are mentally handicapped.  The two women had lived with and been cared for by their parents until the parents passed away.  At that time, one of their adult siblings was given guardianship over the two women.  The guardian decided to put the two women into a home of some sort, many miles away from the reservation and from all that was familiar to them.  No one from their immediate family visited them and, in fact, the guardian moved away to the East Coast and left them alone.

Jane Doe was the only one who visited her nieces, in spite of the fact that her car was constantly breaking down.  The women cried when she left and called her crying when she was at home because they were so lonely.

Jane, though disabled herself, was so concerned about her nieces that she went to the tribal court and sought guardianship of the two women.  They have been allowed to come to visit her — sleeping on the floor of her living room on top of sleeping bags and quilts.

Jane recently received guardianship!  However, they cannot come to stay with her permanently until she has a place for them to sleep that is not the floor. 

The living room is the only place in the apartment that they can stay.  Truly, Jane and her nieces need a proper place to live — one where a wheelchair will fit through the doorways.  But that is not likely to occur any time soon.

Jane would like to have her nieces home by the holidays, she told me when she called to ask if I could help her find a pull-out sofa bed or bunk beds for her nieces.  It’s so hard to say no to someone as generous and kind-hearted as Jane.  But it isn’t what we usually do, since a sofa bed, the best option, can be quite expensive.  I, personally, would hate to ask 38 and 40 year old women to be climbing into bunk beds, however.

We have actually located a sofa bed for $1000 that can be delivered to their home.  I’m not sure if that included tax — probably not, right?  But we don’t have a spare $1000 at this time.

I’m hoping that there will be a donor (or donors) who thinks that these 2 mentally handicapped women deserve to live with their aunt, who is so loving and giving in spite of her own needs.

If you know anyone who would like to help, direct them to ONE Spirit at http://nativeprogress.org to make the donation.

I, personally, am going to keep Jane Doe in my mind as I prepare for the holidays of giving thanks and giving gifts.  She is willing to give of what little she has out of love for her family.  She is a true inspiration to me!

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ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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Actually, I guess it ought to be three wheelchairs, since I now know three women on Pine Ridge Reservation who require wheelchairs to move around.  There are many more but I am not personally acquainted with them.  But I know two different “types” of wheelchair-bound women.

Wheelchair 1

When we returned home from our trip to the reservation earlier this month, I had a phone message waiting for me from one of the women to whom I refer.  When I had spoken with her a month or so earlier than the trip, all was well — and she did not have to rely on a wheelchair to get around at that time.

This woman is a grandmother who cares for a teenaged granddaughter (who has a serious chronic illness) and a grandson.  She lives in a home with her spouse, an adult daughter, several other grandchildren and an adult son.  But she is definitely “in charge.”  She is the glue that holds the family together, as one of the children’s sponsors told me.

I returned her call and asked how she was.  “Pretty good now that I’m home from the hospital,” was her reply.

The hospital?  She had been unexpectedly hospitalized because of gangrene in her foot, a complication of her diabetes.  It has just been a toe that looked “a little dark” when she went to the doctor.  But it was more than that, apparently.  They brought a helicopter in to fly her to Rapid City Regional Hospital, where she spent the next two weeks.  During that time she had a leg amputated and got her wheelchair.

When she was leaving the hospital, they gave her a narrower wheelchair which she tells me fits through the doorways in her home.  Since she already had significant arthritis, they had already added a ramp to her home in the years before.  If she needed any further accommodations made to help her mobility, I had no doubt that this feisty Lakota grandmother would ask for them.

We spoke about the adjustment from two legs to the chair.  She told me that she is not “happy” about the change, that it can be frustrating at times but that she would manage.  She laughed when she told me about the groups that have been calling her with “support” for the depression she must have.  She told them she wasn’t depressed, but that she would contact them if she needed them.  She won’t, I’m sure.  She’ll “manage.”

The real reason for her call?  Not her own woes — at least, not directly.  She had heard from her long time sponsor who had told her she would only be able to sponsor her until the fall.  The sponsor, who had major heart surgery just a couple of years ago, was now fighting a battle with cancer.  She was worried about her.  Oh yes, and could I start looking for a new sponsor for her so she would have one when this sponsor stopped in the fall?

I wonder if need always trumps concern.  Probably.

The second woman is also a grandmother and diabetes was also the cause of her need for the wheelchair.  The first time I spoke to her she told me that she liked to sew and read.

We visited her on one of our early visits to the rez.  At that time she was living in an old FEMA trailer.  There was no room to get around in the wheelchair, with the worn, overstuffed furniture she had in the trailer.  There were no closets to speak of, so clothing and other items were stacked and strewn throughout the trailer.  She had adult nephews who were there at the time but did not seem the least interested in helping her get around in the cramped space with the wheelchair.

Now she lives in slightly better “digs” for a rather sad reason.  Her adult daughter, who has four children, was sent to jail.  I don’t know the reason and I did not pry.  The children needed someone to care for them while mom is away.  So this grandmother moved into her daughter’s small house to care for the young grandchildren.  It is now a bit easier for her to get around.  But she is not the type to ask for anything for herself and so she is not likely to have a truly accessible home.

Wheelchair 2

The third woman in the wheelchair is very different from the two grandmothers.  She is younger.  She is not in her wheelchair due to complications of diabetes.

It was about 15 years ago that this woman was in a car that was rear ended by a drunk driver.  I’ve written about her before.  She was paralyzed from the waist down and has been in her wheelchair ever since.  We first met her in her apartment, which is incredibly small.  The kitchen fits a small kitchen table and her chair with little room to walk around it.

The last time I spoke to her, she related that she has never been able to use her bathroom.  She cannot get into it with the wheelchair.  She must do all her bathing and toileting in her bedroom.  Of course, the bedroom is not much larger than her mattress, so it is difficult.

It saddened me to think of living like that.

It is very difficult to be handicapped on the reservation.  Most of the living accommodations would not “pass” ADA muster.  There are many unpaved surfaces.

Yet there are many handicapped persons on the reservation, diabetes probably being chief among the causes.  How do I know this?  One of the things I noticed on my last visit was how many homes have ramps to the front doors.  I guess it’s good that the handicapped person can enter his or her home, even if they can’t get around in it very easily.

I have yet to see anyone with an electric wheelchair, though I am certain there are some who would benefit from that convenience.  Especially someone like the last woman I wrote about, who has had to be in the chair for so long already.

I was in a wheelchair once, for six weeks.  I am unable to use crutches due to my fibromyalgia and I broke an ankle that required surgery.  I had to use a wheelchair.  Even in my 5 room ranch it was not easy getting through doors.  It was not easy getting in and out of buildings.  The toughest task was getting up a ramp in an arena when I attended a hockey game one time.  Obviously my husband wasn’t going to push me into the Ladies’ Room.  So I was trying to push myself up the ramp which was steep enough to make me struggle.  Thank goodness it was “Girl Scout Night” and a few scouts came along to assist!  They truly did a good deed!!

So who does good deeds for the folks on the rez?

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I have so much to do in the next 3 hours and so much to think about in general that I don’t know what to do first.  So instead of doing any of it, I’m writing.  Anyone else who writes will understand that.

This will be one of those hodge podge posts – a little bit of everything.  There has been much I’ve told myself I need to write about in the past week or so, but I’ve been too busy to write (I hate those words!).  So here is the condensed version.

Many of you know that I have Lakota friends on Pine Ridge Reservation.  A month or so ago, the 19 yr old daughter of my friends moved away – to Salt Lake City to live with extended family.  It has been difficult for my friend to have her daughter away.  Even her daughter has had mixed feelings about it.

Her daughter recently started using Facebook and is now my friend there.  It’s nice – I can see what’s going on in her life without being the nosy grandma.  I can also see when things go wrong.  Like this past week, when the young man she’d been dating for 5 years was killed in an auto accident back in Rapid City.  She didn’t hold back her grief from Facebook.  She has endured a 22 hour bus ride back to Rapid City so she can be on the reservation for his family and to honor him.  I know she will also get support from those around her.

I am embarrassed to say that, when I first heard that the young man had died, I hoped and prayed it had not been a suicide.  There is such an “epidemic” of suicide on the reservation that I should not have been surprised at such a thought.  Still . . .

I have helped by supplying money for gas to get to Rapid from the rez, to pick her up from the bus station.  I also offered to pay for a cake for the wake.

I have also been worrying about my brother.  You may recall he had been at a deep low in his life when a friend offered to provide the funding for a new business that he would run.  He had done this successfully before and was confident he could do it again.  So after many, many hours of preparation, the business opened on July 4, 2010 – appropriately, given that the name of the business is American Revolution Realty.  Everything was going well and expenses were significantly under the projected budget.

So why, after only 3 and a half months, would the financing partner decide to “pull the plug” on the business?  My brother said the partner said it was “too much stress.”  What?  Did the partner think starting up a business in these economic times was going to be a walk in the park?  Come on!  He’s a businessman; he should know better.

This has thrown my brother’s life into chaos once again.  Since he is 2000 miles away, there isn’t much for a sister to do but offer support by phone or internet . . . and pray.  I have been trying to do it all, especially the praying part.  I sure can’t see what God has in mind here!

I’ve also been working hard all week for the non-profit I work (or volunteer full-time) for.  The food delivery out on Pine Ridge Rez was last weekend and I have been calling as many of the recipients as I could reach to get feedback.  [Food delivery, feedback – I like that]  Anyway, it can be frustrating trying to call the rez, where some people shut off their phones to conserve battery life and others just can’t get much of a signal where they live.

I have a couple of new sponsors, for whom I give thanks.  Since my husband and I are going away for a night, to the witchy city of Salem, MA, I will have to work on Sunday when I get back to get things in a timely way.  As my co-worker Mavis, who lives “across the pond”, would tell me, “There is no rest for the wicked.”  She would say it in her cheeky way as she laughed.

I also completed a slide show video on Pine Ridge Reservation which I have posted on YouTube.  I have provided a link here so you can see it, too.  I think it came out okay for a first effort.

So, what should I do next?  Wash the dishes?  Finish packing?  Address the box of clothes I’m sending to the rez?  Keep writing?  I have to decide soon because the coffee in the cup is almost gone and that was my timer of choice – stop writing and move to the next thing when the coffee runs out.  But do I have time for a shower before my brother call?  I wonder what time he will call this morning.

Okay, okay . . . I’ll go do something if you promise to go check out my YouTube video.  At least that way one of us will be accomplishing something worthwhile.  Here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/user/bettyb22111896?feature=mhum

I vow here and now to write more often so that the things in my head that I want to write about don’t pile up or fade into foggy memory, crowded out by the next big issue.

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