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Archive for the ‘Hospital’ Category

This is a sad story, so if you are already depressed, you might want to read it another time.  It is the story of an event in the lives of our Lakota friends.

I have met sister/cousin before – actually the first time we visited the rez over 6 year ago.  But I really got to know her better when I visited for the house blessing this past August.

I should probably explain the term “sister/cousin” because it is one I made up to explain the relationship between the woman I will write about and my friend.  My friend’s husband’s mother and this woman’s father were siblings.  So technically the two are first cousins.  However, as often occurs on the reservation, the two ended up being raised in the same household as siblings instead of cousins.  I have found that on the rez, the terms used are more reflective of the situation than the technical, biological reality.  Otherwise, how could I be “Unci (Grandma) Bee”.  I have no grandchildren but I am unci to my friend’s takojas (grandchildren).

So the two are sibling/cousins.  They care about each other as if they were sister and brother.

Sister/cousin was pregnant in August when I visited my friends.  She was expecting her 5th child.  She was happy about it, even though she worries because her husband drinks with his friends and he is not a pleasant drunk.  But I thought she seemed very swollen, like she was retaining fluid.  That is not a good thing for a pregnant woman to do.

Fluid retention can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a condition of pregnancy in which the mother’s blood pressure rises dangerously and her kidney function declines, resulting in the retention of fluid and build up of toxins in the blood.  It was at one time called toxemia because it was thought to be a toxic condition.  However, the true cause is not known.  It is associated with multiple pregnancies, poor diet, diabetes, cigarette smoking and prior hypertension in the mother.

If it continues to become more severe, the complications can include seizures for the mother, premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall (called an abrupted placenta) which leaves the baby with no oxygen or nutrients, and maternal and/or child demise.

As both a woman who has experienced mild pre-eclampsia in her own pregnancies and a childbirth educator who taught over 1,000 students over her 10 year teaching career, I can say that most medical professionals take pre-eclampsia very seriously.  They check your blood pressure frequently and work to bring down the hypertension.  Why?

The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby.  If the mother’s blood pressure cannot be controlled by diet or medication, labor must be induced or a Cesarean surgical birth must take place immediately.  Otherwise, there is an increased risk of complications, including death, for both mother and baby.

Sister/cousin, so I am told, had pre-eclampsia when I arrived to visit in early August.  My observation had been correct.  By October, her blood pressure was unable to be controlled, even with the hypertension medication she was given.  She was finally scheduled for an induction of labor.  However, there was a week that passed between her appointment and the induction of labor itself.  I cannot say why [or personally understand why] someone whose blood pressure was as high as sister/cousin’s was, for as long as it was, would not be induced immediately or taken to the operating room for surgical delivery.  She was sent home for a week — and never put on bed rest, never told to lie down on her left side to improve circulation to the baby.  She went home and tended to her other children and husband.

When she was finally induced on Halloween and after a long labor, she gave birth to a 6 lb 5 oz son on November 1, in the wee hours of the morning.  The little boy was born dead — stillborn.

The extended family who had attended her during labor, including my friend and her daughters, were devastated.  Sister/cousin was beyond consolation. I don’t know if she had been prepared for this possibility before the birth by the medical staff.  Sister/cousin called her husband, who was not there, to inform him that his son was dead.  Being drunk, he cursed at her, called her names that are not printable in this “PG” blog and refused to come to the hospital.  Sister/cousin then called her own mother to let her know that her grandson was “gone.”  Her brother answered the phone, repeated her husband’s behavior and hung up on her.  My friend said the pain in sister/cousin’s eyes doubled after those phone calls.

The doctor who examined the baby told sister/cousin that based on the physical condition of the baby, it appeared that the baby had been dead about a week.  The baby was sent to Bismarck, ND for autopsy, though no one knew why, since that was unusual.  The baby was buried at the end of the week.

Rest in peace, little one.  You had a very short walk on the earthly part of the Red Road.

 

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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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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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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.

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I spoke to my friend on the Pine Ridge Reservation yesterday.  You know, the friend whose daughter got pregnant while in state custody.  I don’t recall when I have heard her so angry.

If you aren’t aware of the circumstances I’m referring to, the short version is:  Her daughter was placed in state custody at 15 years old for being a chronic runaway.  She is currently in placement in a “secure” home for girls in Mitchell, SD.  A few weeks ago, my friend got a call from a nurse at a hospital out there.  The nurse told her that her daughter had suffered a “spontaneous abortion”.  My friend assumed her daughter must have been at least 4 months pregnant since she had been in custody since July.  The nurse told her no, it was about 6 weeks and it had been confirmed by her blood work.

My friend realized that, if that were true, her daughter had gotten pregnant while in state custody.  So she notified Child Protective Services, the US Attorney (because the child is a Native American, the federal government has jurisdiction over major crimes) and the tribe.

Suddenly, things are changing.  The woman she had been working with at Child Protective Services is doing something else now and a new woman has been assigned to the case.  This new woman told my friend that the doctor now says “perhaps he made a mistake.”

SAY WHAT??

A mistake?  Blood work doesn’t lie – especially when the tech doing the test has no idea of the details of the case.  Pregnancy is clearly detected by blood test.  This isn’t a home pregnancy test.  This isn’t a case of someone claiming to be pregnant.  This is a blood test that was done because a child was having problems and taken to the doctor by the state.

The new woman at CPS then had the gall to ask my friend when she had last visited her daughter.  She was treating her as a “bad mother” – you know the tone people take when they are trying to make you feel small and humiliated.  Of course, my friend told her just 2 weeks ago and called her on her attitude.  (Be advised that bureaucrats do not take kindly to having their faults pointed out.  It creates even worse attitudes.)

My friend feels badly enough that her daughter has gotten herself into this place.  She has done everything short of putting the child in shackles to keep her home and prevent her from getting into trouble.  But now she has run up against the “blame the mother” attitude.  She will not take that from anyone.  I can see a storm brewing.

The bigger problems I see are many.

First, the state took a child away from both her family and her culture (albeit for good reasons).  Initially she was in Rapid City – “only” an hour away from family and they could visit her regularly.  It was definitely a hardship, since they have an unreliable vehicle and no money for gas.  Indeed, I gave them gas money several times.  They drove the hour each way for each short visit they were allowed.

Then the state found this “permanent” placement – and the child is now 4 hours away from home and family.  That means that, in order to visit her daughter, my friend has to travel 4 hours just to get there, spending a much larger sum of money to do it, then travel 4 hours to return home to the reservation.  With no job, having to somehow pay “child support” to the state anyway, having a car most people wouldn’t own that burns gas and oil like most of us drink water – with all those obstacles, my friend has still managed to visit her daughter periodically.

Second, I smell a rat when it comes to the “mistake” claim.  Of course the state and the facility don’t want anyone to hear about this.  A child became pregnant in state protective custody.  The medical facility called the child’s mother to advise her of the medical facts.  I know this is true because my friend had to ask what a “spontaneous abortion” was – it isn’t a term she would use.  She would use the term most laypersons use – miscarriage.

Suddenly the doctor recants?  Says there was a mistake?  Then why did the nurse tell my friend that the blood pregnancy test had been positive.  Suddenly the sympathetic case worker is removed and replaced by one with a negative attitude toward my friend? That’s a remarkable coincidence.  Suddenly no one knows anything and no one will give my friend any information about her daughter?  Yet they ask how often she visits in accusing tones?

The phrase that comes to mind is “cover up.”  It is less negative to say the doctor made a mistake (will the malpractice insurance carrier see it that way?) than to say that the state was negligent in the care of this young woman.  But that kind of thing doesn’t really happen, does it?

I might think that perhaps I was being a bit paranoid about the whole thing if we were relying solely on the word of the child.  But we are basing our views on the words of a medical professional.

I might think that perhaps I was being a bit paranoid if this were a young white girl from the suburbs.  But it is not.  It is a young Lakota girl from the reservation.  In South Dakota.

I have seen the prejudice and bias toward Indians in South Dakota first hand, with my own eyes.  I have seen looks and attitudes that I thought long gone.  I am not a young woman.  I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s.  I saw the attitudes of the South and the work for civil rights.  The South may be changing.  The country may have elected a president “of color” (I am trying to be as politically correct as I can here).  I have also seen and heard the attitudes of South Dakota in the past 5 years.

In 2005, a group told us the family of the child we sponsor could not know our address or phone number “for our protection.”  Otherwise, they might just show up on our doorstep, looking for handouts.  (I find that rather funny, since I live MANY miles away and know how difficult it can be for folks on the rez to even get to Rapid City, an hour or so away.)  We stayed with the family (who are now our friends) and left the group.  I now work with a different group which works to foster the friendship and personal connection.  We have shopped and dined out with our friends in places where we had done those same things without them as well.  We have seen the way they (and we, as their friends) were treated differently.

So is it a far stretch to think that someone in the system decided that the best way to cover up this blatant negligence was to say someone “made a mistake”?  Better a mistake than a law suit, right?  Everyone makes a mistake now and then.

I say there has been negligence either way.  Either a young woman was not protected in state custody or a mother has been stressed to her limits by a “mistake” made by the professionals charged with caring for her daughter.

Either way – a wrong has been done!

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The last two weeks of August brought more excitement than I needed!

Due to the heart palpitations that had caused my husband to be hospitalized for observation, he ended up being scheduled for a number of cardiac tests.  First he was given a 24-hour monitor to wear.  It made him aware of every palpitation because he started anticipating them.  At least he had some.  When I had my test last year, everything was normal for that 24-hour period.  It figured.

His second test was another one I had had the pleasure of having previously – a nuclear stress test.  Most of us know what a stress test is – walking on a treadmill while hooked up to a heart monitor.  A nuclear stress test takes that up a notch.  Prior to walking on the treadmill, a dose of a radioactive agent is administered intravenously.  After a short wait, they take a scan of the heart prior to exercise.  Then you walk the treadmill, as usual.  After you reach your limit on the treadmill, the scan is repeated.  The test gives a more detailed and accurate picture of what the heart is doing before and after exercise.  My husband, who is his own worst enemy when it comes to medical issues, was really stressed at the prospect of this test – even though I had been through it previously with no ill effects.  He was sure they were going to find something really wrong with his heart because the palpitations had not gone away.

The long and short of it is that all of his tests were normal.  In fact, he walked longer than about 95% of those taking the test while maintaining a normal blood pressure and heart rate.  In plain words, healthier than a horse. 

In order to get him to believe that there was nothing wrong, our doctor had him see a cardiologist to tell him about his test results.  I think he finally got the idea – sometimes our body does things for no good reason and those things are totally benign, even if they are weird.  It’s a difficult lesson for someone who never gets sick.

On August 31, the last day of a crazy month, we got a truly upsetting phone call.  My stepson had experienced a seizure and had been taken to the hospital.  His girlfriend was calling and would call us back when they knew something.  They are in Delaware and we were in Massachusetts.  His mother, my husband’s ex-wife, is also in Mass. 

The original call came about 6 PM.  While we waited to hear, I made my husband start packing slowly.  I knew we would be headed to Delaware no matter what we heard.  We waited … and waited … and finally couldn’t stand it anymore.  My husband called his girl.  In the ER, nothing to report yet.  By 8 PM, I decided that, since we would have a 6 hour drive, we should get started anyway.  We were, after all, packed and ready.

My husband’s ex had asked if she could ride with us – she is alone and was afraid to drive by herself as upset as she was.  So we picked her up and the three of us headed to Delaware.  I drove the first couple of hours so my husband could calm down a bit.  He drove the rest of the way.  When we finally got there, only two persons could go in to see him – guess who got left out.  That was when my calm disappeared into my fatigue.  I paced and paced until my husband finally came out and agreed to take me to the hotel.  I truly felt like the 5th wheel. 

After being admitted, my stepson had more tests than you can imagine – MRI, CT scan, bloodwork, heart monitor, brain wave EEG test, maybe a couple I’ve forgotten.  By the way, the job he has (I should say had, but more about that another time) does not come with benefits.  So this 23 year old young man, who had all this medical treatment, is uninsured.  The “health care debate” just got personal!

He was discharged the following afternoon.  The diagnosis – unknown reason for seizure.  It didn’t show up in any of the tests, so they felt it wasn’t neurological.  He had to see a primary care doctor and the neurologist for follow-up. 

He saw the doctors for follow-up.  The primary thinks a sinus infection was at least partly to blame.  He applied for Medicaid and we hoped his income would be low enough to qualify.  We needn’t have worried.  The neurologist had to disable him from driving for three months (with official notice sent to the Registry of Motor Vehicles).  His job required driving.  No driving, no job.  Definitely qualifies for Medicaid now.  Unfortunately, while that will pay the medical bills, it won’t pay the rent – or any of the other ordinary bills.  So now he has to hunt for a job he can walk to, get deferments for his school loans and hope to survive on his girlfriend’s income alone.  It will definitely be a challenge all the way around.

So far there have been no further seizures.  I guess that’s good and bad new.  It’s good as far as his health and getting medical bills paid is concerned.  It’s bad because he’s out of work for no good reason.

My husband and I leave for a trip out west in about two weeks.  Vacation again.  We’re holding our collective breath, praying that there is no more excitement until then.

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Has it really been over two months since I’ve written on this blog?  It can’t be . .  . can it?

I guess it is.  Let’s see if I can reconstruct that time.  If I can, it means this fibro fog challenged brain has pulled off a minor miracle.  What was the date of the last entry?  Hmmm . . . July 3.  It is over two months!  I’d better get started.

July 4 – 11 was the rest of our vacation in Alaska.  We spent 5 glorious days in Homer, AK – a place that actually felt like home to me.  On the shores of Kachemak Bay, across from mountains that drop into the ocean and include volcanoes, Homer sits up on bluffs primarily.  It does include a spit of land that juts about 4.5 miles out into the bay, only 19 feet above sea level.  It is aptly called Homer Spit.  The spit is lined with rocky beaches that include campgrounds – you camp right on the ocean.  It is also lined with small shops and restaurants.  Since the climate in Homer is not very much different from MA, I knew I could live there.  The only fly in the ointment might be the light issue – the Alaskan summers are fine: daylight all but about 5 hours; the winters, of course, are the reverse.  For someone with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), like me, it could spell trouble.  Still, I think I’d move in a heartbeat if someone told me to.

The rest of July was a blur of laundry, catching up on mail and construction.  We had our bathroom redone from the studs out.  Our only bathroom!  You see the problem with that, don’t you?  We did have a portable toilet outside the back door.  It wasn’t too bad except when you woke up in the middle of the night with an urgent urge and had to get dressed before you went outside.  I doubt the neighbors would have been looking for a half-naked woman streaking to the porta-potty, but the neighborhood skunk might have.  That wouldn’t have been pretty.  It took nearly three weeks to complete the estimated ten day job.  The joys of construction.  Now that it is done, we love it and that has made the “patience” we exhibited worthwhile.

July 31 saw us attending a Gordon Lightfoot concert at the Twin River facility in Lincoln, RI.  The concert was good, but we thought that he looked old and not really well.  It turns out that, two years before Lightfoot had suffered a burst abdominal aneurism and spent a week or so in a coma.  Put in that light, he looked really good for someone who nearly died!

We took a day trip to Maine.  We went to Perkins Cove and walked the Marginal Way.  I had never walked the whole way before, so I was proud of myself.  My husband started having palpitations this same weekend.  He was so unnerved by them that I had him call the doctor on a Saturday while I drove home from Maine.  He had them during the week for three weeks, with exacerbations each weekend.  Finally, the third weekend, the doctor told him to go to the emergency room to be checked out.  They actually kept him overnight that Saturday and had told him they would do a certain test the next day.  Great, except that the cardiologist had not shown up by 3 PM.  They told my husband they didn’t see anything to worry about, so he decided to check himself out and do any follow-up testing on an outpatient basis.  The “hospitalist” (new term for an attending physician who takes care of you for your doctor) must have been offended by the idea of this man deciding to take matters into his own hands and leave.  He told my husband that he could be fine OR he could have a blockage, drop dead and die.  That latter part was in direct contradiction to everything we had been previously told.  Needless to say, we left anyway.  Since even after testing, they told my husband they did not know the cause but the palpitations were completely benign.  No treatment was necessary. 

My husband would not have stayed in the hospital another night unless they’s told him he was dying.  Why not?  We had another concert to go to – the Moody Blues at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino.  What a great concert they gave!!  They sounded and looked as good as ever!!

I have a lot more to say and not much time left for it right now, so I’ll stop here with the concert and pick up tomorrow (I hope) with the rest of the catching up.  Right now I have to catch my breath and let my fingers rest!

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