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Archive for the ‘Indian Health Care’ Category

Life on Pine Ridge Reservation is very complicated.  I am thrilled that ABC News has followed through on their plans to spotlight life on Pine Ridge for the Lakota people.  But the 20/20 program they will air tonight (Friday, October 14, 2011) will only scratch the surface.

Yes, you will see the deplorable living conditions that most endure.  You will see the ideas and programs that are trying to bring hope to the people.  But there are stories that you won’t hear.

You won’t hear these stories because of “political correctness” and the fear of offending those in positions of authority on Pine Ridge.  I usually avoid those stories as well, because I have friends who live on Pine Ridge and I want them to be safe.

But after the 3 phone calls I have received from my Lakota friends this past 10 days, I’m stepping out of my gentle persona and allowing my passion and “righteous anger” to vent.  The volume may get a bit loud, so step back a bit if that will bother you and read from a distance.

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Call #1

When the phone rang 2 weeks ago, I was still recovering from organizing and conducting an event at my church which included a silent auction of Lakota arts & crafts, a video presentation about my Lakota friends’ housing search over 6 years and a “feed” that included buffalo stew.  It had been a huge undertaking the prior weekend and I was, quite honestly, feeling the energy drain.

My friend’s eldest daughter had moved to Rapid City to find work and build a home for her 2 little boys.  They are all my takojas (grandchildren), at least in my heart.  Her partner, the boys dad, was living with them.  Her daughter found work at a fast food restaurant, got an apartment and tried to make a home.  Her partner did not find employment.  He did find the time and money to drink with his friends, even when he was supposed to be caring for the boys.  He had the “energy” to beat her in front of his sons.  This latest call was because he’d slept with another woman.  All of this may sound like your garden-variety domestic drama — but not to my friend.

My friend and her husband got sober years ago.  No AA or other 12-step group; just a strong desire to put her children first.  They do not want the takojas, the boys, to live in those conditions.  So my friend was going to Rapid City to pick up her takojas.  She was going to bring them home to live with them while her daughter figured out what she wanted in her life.

Why did they call me in all this?  Gas money.  The most mundane things can complicate these domestic issues even more.  The first complication is they no longer have a car.  So in order to make the 2 hour trip to Rapid City, they have to borrow a relatives car.  Then they must fill the tank with gas so they have enough gas to get that “rez ride” to Rapid and back.  With no source of income and limited funds, gas money is a frequent request in times of emergency or stress.  I called the local gas station and authorized gas for my friends.

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Call #2

It was no more than a week later that I spoke with my Lakota friend again.  She was not feeling well, having severe pain in her abdomen and chest that was strong enough to cause her knees to buckle.  I told her she needed to be seen by a doctor.  She said she had been seen at the nearby clinic and the only thing they had found was that she had a significantly elevated platelet level in her blood tests.

I am fairly well versed in medical knowledge but I did not have much information about elevated platelet levels and if pain was a result or a cause of that finding.  So I did what any slightly tech-savvy nerd would do – I researched it on the internet.  I found that pain is not typically found when you have elevated platelet levels.  I discovered that there are many causes of elevated platelets, ranging from “benign – no obvious cause” to cancer with many options in between.  I could find nothing that made any sense based on the symptoms my friend had related.

She called a day later, in so much pain that I could hear it in her voice.  Since I was 2000 miles away, I could not say “Show me exactly where it hurts” or do any kind of touching to clarify what I was hearing from her.  But she sounded so frightened, she is newly diagnosed as diabetic, she has a family history of heart disease and the pain was lasting far longer than seemed okay to ignore.  So I made the suggestion that I would make to any friend:  go to the emergency room and have a doctor look at you.

I was aware that the nearest hospital was at least 45 minutes away, if she went to Pine Ridge Hospital.  There is a hospital in Martin, SD that she could go to if she wanted a bit longer drive and of course, there was Rapid City Regional, 2 hours away.  She decided to go to Pine Ridge Hospital, since the clinic was planning to have her check in there the following day for additional tests.

Pine Ridge Hospital is an Indian Health Services (IHS) facility.  The residents of the reservation have a standing joke about IHS:  “I sat in the emergency room for 6 hours and all I got was 2 Tylenol.”  It is a commentary on the quality of care received from IHS.

There were 2 physicians who examined my friend, one male and one female.  They did an x-ray of her abdomen which showed nothing.  [I cannot fathom how an x-ray of soft tissue with no contrast administered could be expected to show anything of significance.]  They did an EKG, which they said was find.  So the male doctor started to discuss what might be going on when the female doctor made a comment aloud, to no one in particular, that my friend’s problems were all in her head and she needed a psychiatrist.

My friend stopped the male doctor in mid-sentence to ask if the female doctor had spoken about her.  The male doctor was uncomfortable enough that my friend realized it was true.  She asked both doctors to leave so she could get dressed and she prepared to leave the hospital without treatment.

That was when she overheard a number of hospital staff, doctors, nurses, etc, making comments about “drunken Indians”.  They were laughing and mocking.  My friend and her husband, who were stone cold sober, were shocked.  They were even more shocked when one of the staffers made a comment to the effect that, if all the drunken Indians were shot, it would make their nights a whole lot easier and saner.

I know the anger that rose in me when my friend told me about those comments and the mocking.  I could barely speak, which was fine since I could not think of what to say that might possibly be appropriate in this situation.  I was embarrassed that those in the medical community would say such things.  I knew my anger, resentment and embarrassment couldn’t begin to approach what my friend and her husband felt.  She did file complaints through the proper channels.  But you and I both know that will not take away the sting of being mocked by those charged with your care.  It was so totally unprofessional.  Sadly, it was not particularly unusual.

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Call #3

The most recent call occurred 2 days ago.  Before I detail the call for you, I want to tell you about my Lakota friend’s husband.  Understanding this man is germane to understanding the event.  It is also important to understand a bit about rez life, so I will also go into that a bit in case you don’t know very much about it.

As I said at the beginning of this post, life on the rez is very complicated.  That statement might actually be an understatement.  There is the poverty the underpins almost everyone’s life, since 90% of the residents live at or below the poverty level.  There are divisions that tear at the fabric of the culture:  pure-blood vs mixed-blood, traditional vs contemporary, activist vs passivist, etc.  There are times when the true Lakota culture, its values and traditions, are ignored or perverted.  Elders, women and children are considered sacred yet domestic violence is rampant.  Based on the traditional clannishness of historical Lakota life, who your family is can be more important that who you are or what idea you may have.  Nepotism and corruption abound.  The tribal council has actually tolerated disrespect among its members. People who are elected do not have to meet any age or educational requirements.  Politics play a bigger part in who gets a job than does who is the best qualified.

My friend’s husband is a big man but he is not the kind of man who uses his size to intimidate.  He is quiet and funny.  He is very smart and currently working on his college degree in business.  He would like to see honesty and respect return to the tribe and the interactions of the people who live on Pine Ridge.  He is a man of integrity who married my friend when she was a single mother raising 4 teen-aged daughters.  That takes courage in any culture!

All of that information is what made the phone call I received from my friend 2 days ago even more unthinkable.  She called to tell me that her husband was going to be arrested and she could find no one on the rez who could loan them $125 for bail money!

If it had not been for the panic in her voice, I’d have thought it was a joke.  I have always told her that, if the girls got into trouble, there was no money available for bail money.  Just not going to happen.  But the panic was there.

Here is the story that I pieced together:  They had submitted, to the proper person, a voucher for gas to go to a health appointment for her daughter.  Somehow, it had disappeared (mistakenly thrown out, intentionally “misplaced”, who knew?); they resubmitted it.  The check was supposed to be ready that day but wasn’t.  My friend’s husband called the office and the clerk told him she had seen the check in the official’s office.  So my friend’s husband called the official and, as he stated, “in a voice of authority” told the official that he would come down to the office “to straighten things out.”  The official decided that was a threat and called the police to arrest my friend’s husband for threatening a tribal official.

This had been on the phone.  My friend’s husband did not assault anyone nor did he go into the office and create a scene.  [I must say it is probably a good thing I don’t live on the rez; I’m not sure I could keep my temper in the face of all the “crap” that goes on.  I’d probably be a “regular” with the jailer under that criteria.]  If she could not bail him out, he would be suspended from college and lose his scholarship money.  It would destroy everything he has worked so hard to achieve thus far.

I was really torn because I had always said there would be no bail money.  But this man has worked hard.  He makes really good grades.  He is honest and straightforward.  I have always respected him.  I wired the bail money.  They plan to wire it back to me when they receive his educational stipend for the semester in another week.  I plan to let them send the money back to me.

After all, there is no gift of bail money, even if there is a loan of it.

And life on Pine Ridge Reservation is complicated, even for those of us who don’t live there.

 

 

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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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I can see you rolling your eyes from here at that title.  How on earth did I come up with that one?  I would like to tell you that I was letting my imagination run rampant, but the sad truth is that this story was related to me by my Lakota friend’s daughter after an experience with Indian Health Services (IHS).

Now, mind you, I was not with this young woman as she took her now 2 yr old son to the clinic and then to the hospital.  So I cannot vouch for the words of medical wisdom she said she received.  However, I can say that she’s been quite accurate in what she has told me before.  So I will relate to you what she said and let you be the judge.

I would remind you that they are living in the trailer I wrote about yesterday — the one that has Black Mold in it.

The little boy has been having a number of health issues.  Most of them seemed like colds and ear infections.  His mom would take him to the IHS health clinic to be seen each time.  This went on for over 7 months.  And each time she took him, they would give her antibiotics for him.  No testing to determine if the cause was bacterial.  So this little boy was on antibiotics for 7 months!

The boy started to have gastric problems as well.  HELLO!!  Antibiotics don’t discriminate between the bad bacteria you want killed off and the good bacteria that lives in your gut and aids digestion.  That’s why doctors will often tell you to eat yogurt with active cultures (that’s bacteria cultures) if you have gastric upset after being on antibiotics.  IHS did not do that.  They sent the little boy for testing, which was of course negative.

Last week the little boy began to have trouble breathing.  His grandmother suggested her daughter take him to the IHS hospital rather than her local IHS clinic.  Good thing.

When she took her son to the hospital, he was hospitalized with a mild to moderate case of pneumonia.  He spent a few days there.

While he was in the hospital, DSS began investigating his mother for neglecting a sick boy (what????) and his mom got some of the most interesting medical explanations I have ever heard.

According to the information I have been given, the medical staff told this boy’s mother that in addition to pneumonia, the child had allergies.  He was “probably” allergic to the pets they had in the home — a dog and a cat.  Possible.  But here’s the good part.  They told her that he probably became allergic because a pet hair got into his mouth and he either inhaled or swallowed it.  That was what caused the allergy!

I’ve had allergies for most of my life.  I am very familiar with the concept of allergic reactions and what causes them.  In the case of pets, it has nothing to do with the pet hair; it is the dander or skin flakes that the pet sheds to which humans can have reactions.  It has nothing to do with the hair.

They did not give this mom any antihistamine medication for the little boy’s allergies.  They did not ask about anything else in the home environment.  No referral to an allergist, either.

I have been impressed by the number of people on Pine Ridge Reservation who have and struggle with asthma.  Many routinely use nebulizers.  Their ages range from infants to elders.

I have a suspicion that all of this asthma is caused by living with Black Mold.  We know that Black Mold can take a big toll on the human body.  Since an estimated 60% of the homes on Pine Ridge have Black Mold in them, it makes perfect sense that it is the cause of so much asthma.

Pine Ridge Reservation is in need of thousands of new homes — not because of Black Mold but because of the number of families who need a home of their own.  They would be homeless except that, in Lakota culture, relatives rarely turn away a family who has no place to live.  If you add in the number of homes currently being used that have Black Mold, are of substandard construction or are simply falling apart, the number would probably double!

Health care and housing — 2 important issues that need to be addressed on the rez.  I am afraid housing will actually turn out to be the easier of the problems to fix. . . as long as IHS continues to give out what could only be called medical misinformation.

IHS should realize the Black Mold problem is making their work even harder than it would normally be.  IHS ought to be advocating for the folks it serves.

IHS should not be telling anyone that her son is sick because he swallowed a dog hair!

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I may make some enemies saying this, however in my humble but educated opinion John Stossel, “reporter and consumer crusader extraordinaire” has gone over to the dark side.  That is a wordy and pretentious way to say I think he’s full of BS.  I believe Stossel is more interested in self-promotion than a deep analysis of the truth at this point in his career.

There was a day, I must admit, when I admired John Stossel.  I thought his consumer reporting was helpful.  But in those days I was not taking the time to check the veracity of his statements.  Had I read FAIR reports earlier in my life, perhaps I would have known that his “facts” were not always really truthful facts.  You can check FAIR concerns yourself at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1887 .

I will also tell you that, had I attempted to write this last night, when I first read his blog post of March 25, 2011 entitles Freeloading Doesn’t Help the Freeloaders, it would have turned into an angry diatribe.  I would have attacked Mr Stossel personally which would not have been worthwhile.  However, I will say I was really steamed!

I refuse to give a link to take more people to his blog post.  I will tell you he posted it on that date at 4:57 in Entrepreneurs, Fox News Appearances, Free Market, Freeloaders and Government. I will analyze it for you, though.  So don’t give him more views unless you plan to add to his already large quantity of negative comments.  I don’t claim to be an expert, like Stossel does, but I do think I am fairly well-informed.

Stossel’s opening statement was “No group has been more ‘helped’ by the American government than American Indians.  Yet no group in America does worse.”

Right here I have to split a few hairs with Mr Stossel.  “No group has been ‘helped’ more …than … Indians.”  Mr Stossel, please tell us the definition of the word “help” that you used.  In my dictionary, help means “to give what is necessary to accomplish a task”, “to save or rescue”, “to make easier/less difficult” and “to relieve in pain, sickness or distress.”

Let us consider how the American government has “helped” the Indians of this country.

American Indians are the original inhabitants of this continent.  They had flourishing cultures, strong family structures, languages of their own and their own forms of government and justice.  In those cultures, the poor were taken care of by sharing – no one went hungry when others ate.  A chief wasn’t the most popular person in the group but the person chosen as having proved him or herself as most wise.  Chiefs didn’t seek the office; it was usually thrust upon him/her.  It wasn’t even a real office, as such.

There was variety among the cultures.  Some were more centralized, where game was plentiful or perhaps the soil was good enough to grow crops.  Other tribes were nomadic – without a permanent home although they did have “permanent” territories.  They followed the migration of animals that were their own life blood.  Indians used every single part of the buffalo, for example, not just the meat or hide.

Although there were certainly disagreements and conflicts between families (clans) and amongst tribes, most were also generous and hospitable.

Enter the Europeans.  Yes, those who are the ancestors of most of you readers, definitely me and assuredly Mr Stossel.  Those Europeans step on the soil of this continent and “claim it.”  CLAIM IT!  Oh yes, there are already people living on this land.  But there don’t seem to be that many of them.  We think there is room for all.  We will claim some of this land as our own.  Yes, we will OWN it.  What?  You, the original inhabitants don’t believe you can own land?  Well, we do and we have stronger weapons, so it will be our way.  Besides, we don’t need that much land.

The success of those first European interlopers would not have been a problem for the Indians if their group did not grow.  But grow it did!  They had huge families and they interested more Europeans in moving to this land of promise.  Then they needed MORE ROOM.  MORE LAND.  Oh, so sorry, we’re going to take more land from you.  Sure, we’ll give you a few trinkets and shells for it.  Trust us.

Woe to those who trust the untrustworthy.

The first Indians to encounter the Europeans had smaller tribes and were more settled (which is NOT to say they were permanently settled in towns, etc).  As happens everywhere, some fell into interracial love affairs.  So begins assimilation.  Others were truly converted to the European life style.  Many were either forcibly “converted” or died trying to preserve their own way of life.

But we need MORE LAND.  MORE SPACE.

So the push westward was begun.  Indians who were already displaced from the east were pushed further away from their homelands if they did not assimilate.

The government began to make treaties with the tribes.   In exchange for the land you are “giving” us we PROMISE to take care of you, make sure you have enough to eat, good places to live.  We PROMISE to punish any bad person who hurts, steals from or otherwise harms a member of your tribe.  We PROMISE no one will bother you on the land we are giving you.

People today like to think that these treaties are quaint documents in which the government meant well but which don’t have much meaning in this day and age.  WRONG!  Treaties are legal documents between sovereign nations. Would we think of saying, “Sure, we have treaties limiting nuclear arms with Russia, but that’s for them, not us.  We can do what we want to.”  That wouldn’t fly, would it?  Treaties are binding on all signing parties.  That includes the US government.

So our government agreed to give the Indians certain things and do certain things for them.  Did the government follow through on everything it PROMISED?  NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Treaties were broken by the government.  There was more land taken (stolen).  There were cultures destroyed and languages lost.  Sacred places were defiled.  And did I mention more land was taken?  Reservations began to shrink as precious minerals were found and mines begun.  Cattle and other grazing herds competed with the native animals that formed the Indian diet.  The government condoned the wholesale slaughter of buffalo to get them out of the way for the railroad to cross the country and to free up grazing land for stock.  The government condoned genocide, too.

The remaining Indians were left on reservations with fairly useless land.  They had no access to food, especially the food they were all accustomed to.  There were no jobs on the reservations.  The children were taken from their families to be “civilized and educated.”  These are the Indians whom Stossel calls FREELOADERS. These are the ones surviving on the benefits the US government promised to them in “exchange” for all their land and their culture.

Let’s go back to the dictionary.  Freeloader is defined as “slang: a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc”.  And freeload the verb is defined as “to take advantage of others for free food, entertainment, etc”.

Okay, based on what we’ve discussed, it is obvious that Indians are freeloaders, right?  The are taking advantage of those who stole their land and culture by expecting to be given the things that treaties have promised.  I’m sure they are entertained by the broken promises, hungry children, substandard living conditions and prejudice they have.  It must be an advantage to experience hopelessness and despair to such a degree that there is an epidemic of youth suicide on reservations.

Mr Stossel blithely notes, “They have short life spans.” That is the understatement of a lifetime! The life expectancy for a male on Pine Ridge Reservation is 48 years and for women it is 52 years!  Those are life expectancies comparable to Burundi, not anywhere in the USA.  Do you really think, Mr Stossel, that these “freeloaders” are getting a benefit here?  Do you think they greedily and lazily think that losing 30 years of expected life is a good deal?

Do I disagree with Mr Stossel’s premise that people who are given everything prosper less than those who must work to get ahead?  Not entirely.  I look at the youth of this nation, a group who have come to believe they are entitled to things, education, jobs because their parents gave them everything they asked for.  Talk about a group of freeloaders (in general; there are certainly exceptions).

However, do I believe that American Indians are freeloaders, as Stossel claims?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I wonder if Mr Stossel has ever spent any time visiting a reservation or talking to those who live there.  I doubt it.  I have done both.  I have seen with my own eyes what passes for housing on the reservations of South Dakota.  I have seen how hard it is to succeed even with an education – that it often means leaving home, family, culture and friends.

So, Mr Stossel (I’m sure you read your own press and hope you have been able to read to the end), I urge you to read any of my blog entries in the Lakota category.  Watch the videos I’ve made from photos I’ve taken on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

My Passion is Pine Ridge  http://youtu.be/t8UYGSBl4yU?a

Third World Conditions in the USA  http://youtu.be/-gHXmlUpVvs

Look carefully at the pictures of my friend’s house, Mr Stossel.  Tell me if you really believe that someone would live in those conditions willingly in order to take advantage of charity or “government handouts.”  If you really believe that, you don’t deserve the BA in Psychology that you got at Princeton University.  You obviously didn’t learn enough to merit it.

Yes, there are prosperous American Indian individuals and tribes who don’t need the benefits they are entitled to from the US government.  But there are many, many more who, for whatever reasons, absolutely need them and would not be able to survive without them.  You should know better than to compare apples to oranges, Mr Stossel!

American Indians, especially in the Dakotas, endure prejudice and bias akin to that experienced by African-Americans in the deep South in the days before the Civil Rights movement.  Where is the American media when that occurs?  Absent.  It is abominable that you add to this with the commentary you wrote equating all American Indians with freeloaders.  Shame on you!

Mr Stossel, you should not write about what you don’t know, even if you have a wonderful staff to feed you statistics.

And you owe American Indians an apology at the very least.

g a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc

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I got a call from my Lakota friend today.  It was early in the morning for her (8 AM) even though it was 10 AM for me.  She never calls that early unless there is a problem.

She said hello when I answered and asked how I was.  There is always the courtesy.  I told her I was hanging in there – if you’ve read my prior post, you will understand.  I asked her how she was doing.

She replied, “Oh, I’m doing okay.”  If I hadn’t known her for 5 years or if I didn’t listen for the sound of her voice as well as the words, I might have believed her.  But the only time this woman sounds like she sounded this morning is when she is frightened or emotionally upset.  It was the slightest bit of shakiness in her voice that gave her away.

I gently confronted her on it.  “Come on now, you’re not okay.  I can hear it in your voice.  With all we’ve been through over the years, don’t you think I can tell when you’re upset?”  I think she wanted to hear that.  I think she wanted to know that someone really listens to her.

She told me that during her recent “womanly” physical (gynecological exam) they had found a lump under one of her breasts.  She had to go for a mammogram today and needed gas to get there.  I told her the gas money would not be a problem.  Then we talked about mammograms and ultrasounds.  I did not voice my private concern about the quality of care from Indian Health Services on the reservation.

It was a short conversation because she had to get ready to go for the exam.  After we hung up, I called the money for gas into the local market that I work with.  Then I pondered my friend’s health.

My friend is young enough to be my daughter.  She is just in her late 30’s.  Yet she has recently been diagnosed with diabetes.  She has severe problems with her shoulders.  She has been having trouble with her heart racing — which the medical providers could not decide whether it was caused by heart problems or anxiety.  Now this.

I know what my friend’s health problem is.  She suffers from a combination of Native American genetics, reservation life and diet, hard work and treatment by Indian Health Services.

I see it time and time again in the other people I speak with on the reservation.

Personally, I would like to see health education start in earnest as soon as children enter school.  Not just the typical things, but learning about the signs of the diseases that are so common on the reservation and about what those diseases can do to the human body.  Kids need to know that they can live longer, healthier lives by paying attention to diet, exercise, education, etc.  Not just kids in the relatively well-heeled neighborhoods in other areas, but rez kids too.

My friend did not know that corn was a sugar in your body.  She did not know that, when she ate what she thought was a vegetable, she was also eating something that would increase her blood sugar significantly.  Vegetables are all the same and all good for you in unlimited quantities, right?

I remember the other times I heard that shake in my friend’s voice.  There was the time her daughter had been raped.  There was the time her daughter had run away.  There was the time her daughter had died.

My friend is scared.  She has seen the results of health care on the reservation among her relatives and friends.  This time she is scared for herself.  And I am 2000 miles away – wishing I could do more than write and pray.

I dread hearing that shaky voice again.

 

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I’ve been lax in writing; it’s true.  But sometimes stories need to wait to be written.

I had been given information on this family by someone outside the family, but I did not reach the mom until this weekend.  I wanted to wait until I had more information.  It turned out the neighbor was pretty well informed.

I had spoken to this mom before because her 5 children had been in urgent need of warm clothing.  Already had her basic information.  She has children ranging in age from 12 to 3 years.  It was the baby, the 3 year old girl about whom I had heard some disturbing news.

According to the neighbor, the mom had come to visit with the baby.  Mom had, at some point in the visit, noted that her daughter’s face didn’t seem right.  The neighbor noted it didn’t move like the other side and sort of drooped.  She encouraged her to take the baby to the clinic.  But mom just figured the little girl was tired.  Children can be funny like that when they need a nap, she said.

The next day the neighbor got a call from the mom.  Mom asked the neighbor to come to the hospital to be with her.  When the neighbor asked why she was at the hospital, mom told her the little one, just 3 years old, had suffered a stroke.

Of course the neighbor joined her to support her.

When I spoke to mom, I learned that the 3 year old had indeed suffered a stroke.  The cause was still unknown but they did tell her that the child has some sort of heart problem – she was unsure of what it was.  The child is also having seizures now (mom said 3 different kinds) and that they could not tell if the seizures were the cause or the result of the stroke. She is now on a number of medications which make her rather lethargic.

The little girl has an MRI scheduled in a nearby city on Tuesday.  I have experienced an MRI.  I think it will be a bit intimidating for a 3 year old.

Mom told me that she was told the heart condition is hereditary.  She does have a heart problem herself, although she does not remember being told that a seizure or stroke could result from it.  There was no genetic counseling prior to conceiving any of her children.  Mom is on Social Security disability due to her condition.

Due to her disability and the children, mom receives food stamps in the amount of $535 per month.  With that she must feed 6 people as well as purchase the necessary personal care products.  Growing children, especially a boy nearing the teen years, eat like there is no tomorrow.  She talked about trying to budget her food stamps and stretch them from month to month.  I think I have found a food sponsor for this mom so she will be about to stretch the food stamps a little more easily.

Back to thinking about the 3 year old girl.  This little girl is now hemiplegic – that is she is paralyzed on her left side.  That is an indication that the damage occurred in the right side of her brain.  So, what does the right side of the brain control or manage?

RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
believes
appreciates
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
impetuous
risk taking

This little girl will have a more difficult life as a result of this stroke and the seizure disorder she continues to have.  She will need physical therapy to help her regain as much function of her left side as she can.  She will likely need speech and occupational therapy.  She may need psychological counseling to cope with frustrations and brain damage.

It is a good thing that stroke treatment has come so far.  But wait – that’s stroke treatment for adults, not children!

Wait a bit more! This girl lives on Pine Ridge Reservation.  There is basic health care available.  But she will have to travel an hour or more for specialists.  The health care nearby is, well, not the best to say it in a politically correct way.  Or perhaps I should just let the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs say it plainly:

A 2010 report by Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., found that the Aberdeen Area of the Indian Health Service(IHS) is in a “chronic state of crisis.” “Serious management problems and a lack of oversight of this region have adversely affected the access and quality of health care provided to Native Americans in the Aberdeen Area, which serves 18 tribes in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa,” according to the report.

Or perhaps I should let the Indians say it themselves, as they do in this Facebook group,

I just spent 6 hours at IHS just for them to give me Tylenol.

Here are a couple of comments:

*OMG!!! One of my relatives went to IHS for what they believed was a broken ankle and it was (diagonosed later, at a non IHS facility) but at IHS after specifically being told it was the right ankle, IHS put a cast on the left ankle/foot. Hilarious and maddening at the same time. We supposed to appreciate this sub standard healthcare……..

*Back in 2000 I went to IHS for side pains. They could not figure out what was wrong with me. So I ended up in the hospital for 3 months on oxycontin to morphine drips. After getting addicted to pain meds they finally transferred me to County. Was diagnosed with gallstones, and I was out in 2 days. Afterwards I had to go to Pain Mangement to get weaned off all the pain meds.

*Santa Fe IHS, pulled my wisdom teeth w/ no novicane (in a small trailer behind the hospital). I signed a release printed on the back of an old flyer, but I did get some tylenol, after a 3 hour wait. Then walked home. Ha

*I had to go to IHS a few years ago for a broken hand and it only took 2 hours for my x-ray. I thought I would be out in record time. 3 hours later they suggested I go to the nearest hospital to get a cast. By that time I would have been satisfied with duct tape around my hand, but I did walk out the door with my Tylenol.

*Hey now…not all IHS’s are bad… I mean I can drive to Rosebud or Sioux San in Rapid before I’m seen at Pine Ridge.. lol.. I waited for 8 hours at PR and finally I took the hour drive 2 Sioux San and I was in and out of there in 45 mins!… OF course I got tylenol but this time I also got some antibiotics… yay! We’re movin up in the world.

These are true stories, not fiction. They are not my stories but those of the people who use Indian Health Services.

 

So what kind of future do you think there is for a 3 year old little girl who is a stroke victim and lives on the reservation?

I think it will be a hard life for her and her family, personally.

 



LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
knowing
acknowledges
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
practical
safe


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