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American History
Your Brother is Sick

     My, soon to be,  Osage-Otoe friend stood in the doorway of my office. She was tall, as tall, in fact, as the mighty ancestors whose genes she had inherited. They were the pipe holders and they held no fear. She waited until she had my attention.

     “Was that your brother who was just here?”  she asked.

      “Why yes, it was.”  I told her. In my mind I'm wondering how she knew. My brother was as much Native American in his looks as she was. There was no way a stranger could have tied us together as brother and sister but in fact we were children of the same parents. While I thought for a minute, I realized that, of course, there are no secrets among the Native people. Everyone knows everything about each other.

      “She sent him home with no treatment. His fever is 104 degrees.” Her short clipped revelation wouldn't have been any stronger if it had been a lengthy discourse.

       It was typical the way the woman drifted back to her Native ways in not even calling the head nurse's name. This was the only evidence this nurse was to give that she was not happy with what the other woman had done.

      The whole reason for working and being at the school was tied up with loyalty to family. My brother came behind me and was still in the school. We hardly ever saw each other since we were scheduled to different parts of the school. Still, I was there if he needed me. It had been that way since we were kids.

       I picked up the phone and called the boys building. My request for my brother to return to the clinic was honored.

      Without one word to anyone I walked to the back of the hospital where the head nurse was.  She had never seen me angry and she was so startled she almost couldn't,  breath. Her steely stare was gone. Instead there was a shifting back and forth of her eyes as I confronted her about what she had done.

      “I didn't know he was your brother,” she tried to hedge out of responsibility.

      “Now why should that make a difference? He has a 104 degrees temperature. He is most certainly ill.”  It made me think and wonder how many children before him, had been treated the same way by the woman. Were the children buried in the little cemetery outside Chilocco there because of such a careless mistake? Was it only the files she had neglected?

      When my brother returned he was put to bed and the nurses cared for him until the doctor arrived. It turned out that he had the mumps. He was a very sick child and had to be quarantined in the hospital to keep the other students from being exposed. My friend with her quick thinking had saved not only my brother but the whole school from another out break of disease like the influenza one we had just survived.

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