Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Voice Lost in Cherokee Nation Health Services

Laurie*, a full blood Indian and speaker of the Cherokee language, has been trying to navigate the Indian Health Care system for over 5 years. At 47, she's still a fairly young woman, but because she is sick, she can no longer work. Often, she can't talk because her illness steals her voice.

After making circles in the IHS holding pattern for three years, finally, in February 2013, Laurie was referred to an allergy specialist in Tahlequah. That doctor did tests, evaluated the results, and said Laurie needed allergy shots.  While the clinic said they could cover the cost of the shots, Laurie would be required to cover the cost of her weekly office call visits, totaling about $120 per month. The Cherokee Nation's IHS wouldn't cover that cost and Laurie couldn't afford it, so she's gone without treatment. 

Laurie has tried to go outside IHS to get help. She isn't eligible for Sooner Care because she has no children. She couldn't use the free clinic in Pryor, Oklahoma because they told her she was an Indian and had IHS. She can't afford "Obama Care" because Oklahoma didn't accept the Medicaid expansion. She's contacted her Cherokee Nation council person. She's contacted other council people. She's even contacted Connie Davis, executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services. If it is an option, she's explored it, yet she's still had to go without treatment.

As time has passed and with treatment denied, Laurie's health has suffered in other ways. Due to her severe allergies, headaches were no stranger to her, but the one she had several months ago was different. It was a pounding, aching headache like she'd never before experienced. She was in so much pain, she had to lay down.  As Laurie rested her head on the pillow, for a moment, she thought she might die because the pain was unbearable. Then she felt a "pop" and the pressure and pounding in her head was gone. At that same moment, something ran down the side of her face. It was blood and was coming out of her ear. A subsequent trip to the doctor revealed that congestion from her allergies was so substantial, it caused her eardrum to burst from the pressure. 

Often, when problems like Laurie's are brought to light, the administration's excuse is that the person fell through the cracks. We've been told this enough that it's clear, we don't just have cracks, we have very deep and wide chasms full of people. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Enough!

I don't want to hear excuses. I want to hear solutions.

I don't want to hear "we can't." I want to hear "we will."

And I don't want to hear "she'll have to wait." She's waited long enough.

It's easy for our administration to ignore a problem as long as our people aren't aware of it. They can't ignore Laurie any more. Now we know about her. Now we care about her. And now we demand action. She's lost her voice, but we haven't lost ours. Each of us has a chance to become the voice of the voiceless; to speak for those who can no longer speak; and to stand with those who are standing alone. 

You have a choice. What will you do?

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading. 

* The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the woman.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

1 comment:

  1. Yet another story of Cherokee Nations third world standard of care. Fullbloods seem to certainly treated as foreigners in their own land by a "tribe" that claims to be an " indian nation". That attitude seems to reach much further than the ukb.


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