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Upon Their Hands They Will Carry you
Page 1


A story of my Cerebral Palsied daughter, Rhonda Lou.

It was night in this hospital room. A constant hollow sound of clatter prevailed. The small ward held six beds with only three occupied. This building was of a huge, heavy stone structure and was owned by Native Americans, the Pawnee, to be specific even though it was named The Pawnee-Ponca Hospital. Everything looked like a picture of institutions where military men would go during war. These furnishings told of the greater ownership by the Federal government of the United States of America

The beds were white of leggy small metal pipes and they were tall which brought a person in them up to the edge of the span of windows. Lush green trees grew in the low-lying land where a water table was close below.

Patients in the beds during the day were given a view that was like looking down into a manicured park where children and families of patients strolled about while they waited on someone to be treated. Those were the days when children were strictly forbidden to enter a hospital.

“Something in that pill they gave me is making me so sleepy,” I told the patient in the bed next to me.

She didn't answer and only lowered her eyes. I expected no response. This young woman was of my tribe and it was our teaching to be respectfully quiet. Her half-smile and shaking of her head were enough to let me know she understood.

“If no doctor shows up here I will not be responsible for what happens.” One of the nurses spoke into the telephone in a short, curt voice. The was after nurse Bahayalle repeatedly tried to summon a doctor. My mind mulled over what had happened to me while I was in labor.

I was well aware of my sweet baby's difficult delivery. If a quick thinking nurse had not been present, probably, neither my child nor I would have survived.

Then there was a bungled spinal block, blood spewing on all the nurses and doctor, threshing, fighting, sitting up on the table after the failed spinal block, these were all parts of my nightmare.

This blond, handsome boy, who was my doctor, looked more like someone on a high school basketball team and had probably not even completed his internship, but he was steady and he did his best.

Rod, my husband, was in and out of the nursery and my room watching both Rhonda, our baby, and me after the delivery. He said the doctor held the tiny newborn through the first night and gently tapped the bottoms of her feet when she stopped breathing. I was thankful for that kindness.

Like a ghostly apparition in white the young doctor now had suddenly appeared out of the half light and was standing at the end of my bed. His size was overwhelmed by the spaciousness of the room and he looked forlorn, set away from all others. There was no malice for this man who was little more than a boy. In this fight while in his youth he had been quite alone in the decisions made during my child's delivery. He bravely stepped up when no one else did and carried on.

The doctor came around to the foot of my bed. It was as if he didn’t really want to talk with me. There was no load of patients scheduled upon his time, not at this far out place on the edge of vast prairie lands where only ranches occasionally dotted the horizon. These doctors called, "government doctors" by the Natives really did not have a heavy load.

This hospital served basically two tribes, the Pawnee and Ponca. Neither one of them had much of a population. At the time the Native people maintained strength and good health handed down from their ancestors.

There were serious concerns with tuberculosis, diabetes and such diseases but the tuberculosis cases were sent on to Shawnee, Oklahoma to a hospital there called a sanitarium. The environment here at this place was one of an unhurried and relaxed atmosphere.

“I must tell you, because your delivery was very difficult your baby was quite seriously injured. I feel she will be retarded in some way, either physically or mentally.”

It was as if he, rather than I, was showing anger. What thoughts must be going through his mind? Was he angry with the doctor who fled to vacation time then returned the next day to deliver a perfect baby by caesarian for a woman my age who was dark skinned and visably Native American? Maybe he believed because I, who was of fair skin, should not have intruded upon the dedication he felt was to be made only to those who looked to be Native.

So many times, this happens to those of mixed Native American and Caucasian blood who are using the facilities provided that were their inherited rights. This was the curse and the silent persecution the “half-blood,” often endures. If the issue had been voiced to the one who practiced it they would have been loud in their denial. Only the person experiencing the punishment knew. It has a name, though, and is called, reverse-discrimination. Certainly, he did not know even a whisper of the depth of possession a Native American feels for what had been issued to them as payment for treasured home lands. The ownership and inheritance is honored through cash payments from the offices of the United States government, no matter what color the person is. If the proof of bloodline is there so will be the money, scant that it is.

He had no understanding of that, not even a clue. No wonder the man felt anger, he was caught between issues totally foreign to him as much as if he had been in another country and was the intruder. He had no proper back-up education and direction for a complex social web like this. The youthful doctor did what he could with what he had.

It was the worst place I could have been at that time, even though regular visits were met along with all their requirements. In my naive reasoning there was trust here on my part. Had we not used this hospital since I was a chld? Another lapse in sanity on the part of that institution was that there was actuality no kind of proper teaching with Lamaze as is done today.

A kind, world of blackness was waiting for me and I slipped away from all things mean and harsh to sleep a dreamless sleep.

This is a picture of Chilocco Indian School but the architecture is very similar to the hospital at Pawnee, Oklahoma.


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