Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Substandard homes’ Category

I have been pretty “quiet” lately thanks to the work volume all of the wonderful folks who have been stepping up to become sponsors for children and elders on Pine Ridge Reservation since the 20/20 episode aired.  I literally have not had time to write.

That is about to change!

This evening I called an elder to give her a sponsor for the 5 year old granddaughter she cares for.  The longer we spoke, the more I knew I had to share this story.  I’m sharing it because I am so far past angry I can’t keep this to myself.  It is difficult to type when all you can see is red, but I will give it my best effort.

[scrape … scrape … scrape … sorry, the soapbox makes a bit of noise]

I asked Grandmother how her granddaughter, who is in first grade, was doing.  She told me that the girl was happy but having some difficulty in school.  She was told the child may be dyslexic.  That will mean a struggle for her.

I told her I had a sponsor for the girl and she was very happy with the news.  We continued to talk as I confirmed the address information.  It was then that I began to steam.

This little girl’s family had moved away and left Grandmother with a trailer to live in with the girl.  If you could hear me, I would tell you to close your eyes and picture it as I describe it.  Instead I will try to paint you the picture with my words on this page.

The trailer is in a group of trailers.  It is very old.  Grandmother worries that the roof will come off in the wind that comes with storms – and in South Dakota that is often.  It seems that the wind is always blowing on Pine Ridge Rez.

The trailer has no running water or sewer connection.  They were using a nearby outdoor faucet for water, carting several jugs a day.  Some of the neighboring men “rigged” up the sewer pipe so they could use the toilet, flushing by pouring some of the water they had carried into the tank of the toilet.  HOWEVER . . . there was some kind of water line break in the area and the tribal water department had to shut off the water.  Yes, the outdoor faucet that they were using to obtain water is now dry!  The tribe has not made the repair that would allow the faucet to be turned back on.  Now they have to go to someone else’s home to obtain the water they need and carry it home.

Following the dotted line . . . or broken water line, let’s see the additional results of the lack of water and sewer connections. 

The most striking consequence is that Grandmother cannot get a propane tank without the water and sewer connected.  Is that important?  It depends on your perspective, I guess.  Do you think eating is important?  Do you think it’s important to have heat in the South Dakota winters?  Personally I think they are both things none of us would want to go without.  So how does Grandmother cook?  She uses a hot plate or electric skillet.  How does she keep herself and her young granddaughter warm in the poorly insulated trailer?  She uses several small electric space heaters.  The pair sleep in the living room.  Grandmother has hung a blanket in the hall doorway to keep as much of the heat as possible in their small living area.

Picture two old-fashioned thermometers, the kind with the bulb of mercury on the bottom.  One of the thermometers is measuring the temperature outside the trailer.  The second thermometer is measuring the electric bill.  As the mercury in the first thermometer drops (actually plummets at night) during the winter, the second thermometer’s mercury is exploding through the top of the stem like a volcanic eruption!  By spring, the electric bill will be too high to pay – causing the electric to be cut off and a $250 reconnect fee to be added to the next bill.  This is what will happen this winter as Grandmother tries to feed and warm herself and her granddaughter.

Are you beginning to get upset yet?  No?!  Okay then, it’s time for the clincher.

Do you remember that flimsy roof I referred to above?  That roof has another serious problem – it leaks badly!  When it rains, the water comes in through the light fixtures.  It comes down the walls.  Grandmother’s mattress in the bedroom can’t be used – it’s wet.  Even if they had running water, the bathroom would be unusable – the flooring and carpet is wet.  Besides, after her granddaughter got a small electrical shock when turning on the bathroom light to brush her teeth, Grandmother decided it was better not to use the bathroom at all.  So all bathing and tooth brushing and laundry is done in the kitchen.

I asked Grandmother whether she had sought any assistance to get the problems resolved.  She told me that she had.  She told the folks at housing.  A man came out and made one small repair.  He never returned, in spite of her calls.  Her district representative to the tribal council has tried to help her out but he has had as much success as she has had.

[okay, breathe . . . in . . . in . . . in very slowly, then out . . . out . . . out slowly, control the breath to control the rising anger . . . again . . . okay]

 

Is this how elders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the wise people of the Lakota, should be living?  Is this how they should be treated when they ask for help?

We ALL know the OST has no money, though why they don’t is harder to figure out.  But the fact is they have people.  They need to be training more people to do the very repairs that elders need and can no longer do for themselves.  The tribe needs to invest in their own vocational school to train plumbers, electricians, construction workers, carpenters, etc.  These trained workers could be licensed.  They could form companies and do work for an income.  They could also, in exchange for their education, give back to their communities by performing the repairs for elders for free, as a sign of the respect due to the elders.  The tribe needs to work at making it easier to do business on the reservation — especially for registered tribal members.

Lakota culture and values state that elders are to be respected; that women and children are sacred.  But it is only lip service that the tribe gives.  They spend more time with politics and nepotism guiding their decisions than the truth of their ancestors.

So I am left with the question of how I can help this particular Grandmother.  But I am also left with the bigger question.  There are many more grandmothers on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Many do not have the energy or ability to lobby constantly for the repairs they need.  I am trying to use the steam I am still feeling about this to brainstorm ideas on what would help.

If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.  It doesn’t matter whether they are feasible or not at this point.  I just want to know that you think this situation is abominable and how you think it could be changed.

Read Full Post »

I received a call from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Rez the other day.  She was calling because she wanted to know if we could help her daughter, who had only days to pay her electric or it would be shut off.  There are 2 adults and 5 teens that live in the home.

I think Gramma was a bit embarrassed because they have always been able to manage before.  Her daughter had gone to the tribe to ask for assistance but was told there would be no money available for this until November.  I unfortunately had to tell her that ONE Spirit, the group I work with in their sponsorship program, did not include utilities in our program because of the vast amount of money it would take to do that.  We shared my vision of a wind farm on the plains there that the tribe could build.  The tribe could then supply free electricity to all residents and probably still have electricity left over to sell back to the electric company.  What a relief it would be to residents of Pine Ridge to have free electricity!  Paying over $200 per month when you have no source of income or live on Social Security is a huge burden.  It would be a blessing for the tribe to be able to accomplish this for their people as well, a place where they could begin to rebuild the hope and confidence of their people as well.

She told me about her health, which has improved since her back pain was finally properly diagnosed and treated.  She told me that her daughter, for whom she had requested the help, had been diagnosed with Graves disease in 1996.  That surprised me, because her daughter is full of drive and works harder than anyone I know to help others on the rez.

Gramma also told me about the windows on her trailer (which I have visited).  Apparently one of the severe thunderstorms this past summer blew out all the windows on the rear of her trailer.  The weather, including rain, now comes in her windows.  She said that she had managed to get a board across her bedroom window; however it doesn’t cover the whole window, so rain still comes in.  I asked if she had talked to the tribe about getting help to get them fixed.  She said that, since the trailer was not “tribal housing”, the tribe has no funds to help with things like that.  She noted that she had also contacted a non-profit group that is known for doing work like that all summer.  The group, Re-Member, hosts volunteer groups all summer.  Their last group was last week.  They would not be able to help until spring!  So Gramma will have to go without windows until next spring unless she “finds the money” to hire a private contractor to do the work.  I’m afraid it will be a cold winter.  Unless Santa decides his sleigh has the room and brings windows.

I told Gramma that although ONE Spirit did not have the resources to run a program for utilities, I would see what I could do among my contacts.  Gratefully, we were able to come through for this young woman.

The daughter called me crying when her mother told her I had found a way for it to be done.  It shouldn’t have surprised me, but I am still a bit surprised when strong people cry.  The tears, you know, were tears of joy and relief, not self-pity and woe.  That attitude is something that never surprises me about Lakota women — they never show self-pity and they are always trying to help a neighbor/daughter/sister/cousin instead of themselves.

Lakota women are so inspirational!

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

I have been up to my eyeballs in “work” for the rez, as well as “powerless” (electrically speaking – due to Irene), and have not had the opportunity to write about the rez in the way I’d have liked.  So I’ve decided to post a few shorter bits about my visit to the rez a couple of weeks ago and some of the phone conversations I’ve recently engaged in with “rezidents.”

********************

I spoke with a grandmother this week who had returned an update form to me.  The reason I had requested the update was an email from the sponsor I had given her.  The sponsor had asked if I could perhaps find another sponsor to help with the family.  She mentioned other children.

This puzzled me since I was only aware of 2 young grandchildren, aged 4 and 7, living with this grandmother.  When I saw the update form, I understood the sponsor’s concerns very clearly.

Grandmother now had 2 adult daughters (aged 22 and 24) and 4 other children (aged 13 – in school, aged 18, 19, 20 – all attending virtual high school) living with her, as well as 6 more grandchildren (aged 17 mos, 2, 3, 4, 4 and 6 yrs old).  Don’t forget the “original” 2 grandchildren I knew about.

In case you’ve lost count, as I would if I didn’t have the update form in front of me, 15 people living in one small house!  No wonder the sponsor felt overwhelmed!

Grandmother also noted that they did get food stamps (there aren’t enough food stamps they could possibly get to feed that crew).  However they have no source of income and no transportation.  Her final comment was typical Lakota understatement, “I have a big family so it’s usually hard on holidays.”

Needless to say, I’ll be hunting for sponsors for that family.

********************

I spoke with a disabled elder today.  She had been referred to our program by someone at Pine Ridge Hospital.  She has multiple ailments including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, a leg brace, hypertension and congestive heart failure.

She had been living in a condemned trailer (and trust me, to be condemned on the rez, it had to be pretty awful) and is now living in a new-to-her house with an adult daughter and 10 year old grandson.  I gave her a sponsor today.

The problem is the sponsor won’t be able to help with their biggest need: furniture.  They have none, except for the hospital bed she was given due to her multiple disabilities.  Not a chair or couch.  Nothing.

She said to me, “I don’t care if it’s not new.  I go to Salvation Army Thrift when I have any money.  But it would be great to have a recliner so I could put this bad leg up.”

********************

I got an email from a long-standing sponsor who asked if I could possibly find a “food sponsor” for the family she sponsors.  She had been sending gifts as well as ordering monthly food.  But she recently retired and cannot continue to do both on her more limited income.  She is concerned that the grandmother’s recent leg amputation and the surgery that the child she sponsors required will really have a negative impact on the family.

********************

I assigned a sponsor to 2 elder sisters who live with a niece and extended family (8 folks in the home).  The sponsor lives in New Zealand.  I’m not certain how that will work out.  I chose them because there is someone in the home who has an email address.  I hope it works.

It often surprises me that people outside the United States know more about conditions on the reservations and native culture than the citizens of this country know.

Why is that, I wonder?

********************

I heard about a woman who worked for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  She ran a tight ship in her office and would not keep anyone who drank alcohol or used drugs.  That was in addition to the fact that the tribe has laws and regulations forbidding that sort of thing.

There is regular drug testing and apparently there was a test done on an unscheduled basis that revealed 2 of her employees had violated the rules.  She fired them immediately.  It all seems proper so far, doesn’t it.  Ah, but looks can be deceiving, especially on the rez.

The 2 fired employees went to their local tribal council members and complained.  Instead of supporting the woman who was the supervisor, they reinstated the 2 fired employees and fired the supervisor.

What are they thinking?!  What kind of example is that to set?  In a place where alcohol and drugs play a part in more than 80% of the health and family problems, you would think they would value anyone who upheld the rules.

The rez is a world unto itself and sometimes it makes no sense — even to those who live there and tell me the stories.

********************

I’ve saved the best for last — at least in my personal opinion.  That’s probably because it is a personal story.

You know I spent several days on the rez because my friends were having their new home blessed.  I truly got to visit this time, not just a few hours.  It was wonderful.  It was different because it was their own home, not someone else’s that they were living in, so we could all be ourselves.

I’ve already written about my Lakota friend’s first childhood memory.  That was one of the most traumatic stories I’ve heard from anyone on the rez.  I’ve witnessed the strain and discord between my friend and her mother over the 6 years that we have been friends.

The night before I flew home, when it was just my friend and I sitting and talking, I decided that I would help with their “transmission fund.”

They have an older Ford Explorer that needs a new transmission.  My friend’s husband is fairly skilled in auto mechanics (a matter of necessity if you have a vehicle on the rez) and plans to install it himself.  They have located a used one that he will take out of whatever vehicle it is in and install in their car.  However they need to come up with $350 to pay for it.  While that is not an outrageous sum in terms of transmission parts, it is a lot of money when you do not have a job.

I had not spent much of the cash I had taken with me on the trip and knew I would not need much of it when I flew home the next day.  So I took a good portion of it and gave it to her to start off the “transmission fund.”  That’s when she stunned me.

She started crying — really crying, not just sniffling or tearing up.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  Here was a woman who had endured more than anyone I knew (you can read the stories in my archives under “Lakota friends”) and I had never heard her cry like this.

Finally she looked at me and said, “You don’t understand, do you?  No one has ever wanted to take care of me like this before.  Not my mother, no one.”

It was my turn to cry.

And people wonder what sponsors get back?  I got friends and a whole lotta love.

Read Full Post »

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?

Read Full Post »

I know what you’re thinking — wait, I shouldn’t say that.  My mother used to say that to me when I was a teenager and I hated it!  She would always use that phrase when she was assuming that I was having stereotypical teenager thoughts — which I was never having because I was either too docile or too lame.  Probably the latter.  But I hated being told that I was thinking something I really wasn’t!

So, let’s start again.  It’s true, I haven’t been writing as faithfully as I usually do and now suddenly I’m inundating you with posts.  Sorry, that’s the way writing happens sometimes, especially when you’re doing it for free and your life is in a lull.

But some things have been happening lately that have stirred my interest.  You probably already read about my “godchild” on the rez and her good news.  Now I want to tell you about a family that really needs some good news.

I received an email from a young woman who lives in one of the areas I serve on the Pine Ridge Reservation (southwest SD, for any newcomers).  She asked if I would contact Carrie [made up name to make the story easier to follow], a friend of hers who lived in another area but was in need of assistance.  I let her know that I would.  She told me the family’s trailer had burned, a far too common occurrence.

I called Carrie.  I learned that she is a single mom with 3 children – a 19 year old son, an 11 year old daughter and a 5 year old daughter.  They had been living in the trailer prior to the fire and Carrie’s sister and child had lived with them.

Now they were homeless.

Her sister and niece/nephew (my bad – I don’t recall which) were living with other family now.

Carrie and her family had tried living with her former in-laws.  But the people in that home were drinkers.  She is not.  She did not want her children constantly exposed to that.  She did not want to worry that the few things they had after the fire might be stolen by a family member to sell/trade for alcohol.  It was not a peaceful home.

As you may be aware, there is a severe housing shortage on the reservation.  So finding another place to live is difficult at the best of times and nearly impossible in an emergency.

Carrie decided to borrow a tipi (English spelling: teepee) and set it up in a different district (for reasons I’ll explain in a bit – patience, please).  Allow me to describe the current living conditions and her requests when I called her.

She and the 3 children are living in the tipi which is set up in a grassy area.  They are sleeping on mats on the ground.  They have no bedding or blankets to speak of.  No running water, of course.  There is a hydrant nearby from which they can fetch water.  I suspect they will be building an outhouse.  No shower or bath, either.  They have no electricity and will not be able to get it for some time.  When the trailer burned, Carrie was behind about $300 on her electric bill.  The electricity had to be turned off due to the fire, of course.  So now, in order to get the electricity turned on anywhere else, there will be a $200 reconnect fee as well as the back bill which must be paid.  Carrie will have to find a little over $500 in order to get electricity for the tipi.  She says she does beadwork and has been given some beading supplies by a friend.  She will try to make some earrings to sell for the electric money and to buy more bead supplies.  You see, her supplies were in the trailer when it burned.  So basically, her income went up in smoke!

What do you think was the first thing Carrie asked for?  . . . . .{Jeopardy music} . . . . . Whatever you guessed was probably wrong – sorry about that.  The first thing she asked for was something to cut the grass around the tipi because it’s getting long and the snakes are out.  Yeah, my very thought – I’d want the lawn mower or whatever too!  Then she said, maybe rakes or a shovel.

After the lawn mower came the requests you would expect:  mattresses, bedding, towels, plates and utensils, pots and pans, clothing.  Lastly, in a kind of apologetic tone, perhaps some art supplies for beading.

I placed the family on the OKINI list (in case you are thinking of offering assistance).  Kari, the OKINI coordinator for ONE Spirit, was surprised by the lawn mower request, too.  It was a first for her.  (You can reach Kari at keovensen@nativeprogress.org).  Then I forwarded the family’s information to the area coordinator for the district she is in.

Now, back to the reason for moving to a different area.  Carrie and her family had been participating in a peaceful civil protest at the time that her trailer was burned.  I used those words intentionally, because it is believed that the fire may have been arson.  She thinks that it may have been related to the protest in some way.  She wanted to be away from that area when she set up a new home.

I do not get into politics on this blog if I can avoid it, so I’m not going to comment on the merits of that belief.  I can say that, once a fire is started on the rez, the distances from fire trucks and personnel, the prairie winds and the poor condition of the substandard housing usually results in a total loss of the property — both home and personal belongings.

This kind of thing doesn’t get attention from the national media because it is a single occurrence, not an entire town wiped out by a tornado.  Yet it is still as traumatic for the people involved.  I have done what I could officially to help by putting them on the OKINI list and getting them signed up for sponsors.  But I wanted to do more.  So I am writing this for you to read and think about.

And maybe pass along.

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »