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Dine Diaries, Entry 2: Surviving COVID and On-Going Challenges

from newsletter sent on November 22, 2022

With the observance of Thanksgiving this week, we have decided to return to a series started in these newsletters several months ago detailing the experiences of our partners in the Navajo Nation. We know the common story of Thanksgiving romantically glosses over the realities of settler colonialism, so we instead highlight our partnership with members of the Navajo Nation.

Below, you will find the second installment of writings shared with us by Justina Yazzie who lives on the reservation in Northern Arizona. Justina continues the odyssey of her surviving near death from Covid, saved by being life flighted to Mayo and in a desperate last effort, placed on ECMO, (Extracorporael Membrane Oxygenation). You can read Justina’s first writing on our website.

So, not knowing that they had surgery done on my left leg, I guess they called it ecmo what they done on me. I guess they done a lot. I don't remember because I was fully medicated. Then I remember they said they were going to release me. I was happy thinking that I was finally going home but then found out that I was getting transported to a Rehabilitation Center. I was not safe or ready to go home yet after months in the hospital. I was paralyzed from this sickness so I guess I was supposed to get my strength back at Rehab.

When I got to rehab I was put in a room and I was put on quarantine. I mentioned this to the nurse that they had to clean my wound and change my bandages but they didn't, a lot of times people were afraid to come near you if you had Covid. My left leg got infected so I got transported to the main hospital in Flagstaff.

Left/Above: Justina Yazzie stands before a wood delivery provided by her brother, Jonathan Yazzie. She needs more wood so she can warm her home and soothe the pain in her leg which worsens and gets stiff in the cold weather.

There, I got another surgery done again and they cleaned my wound again. At times I got tired of them poking me with needles to get tested for this and that, I got really tired of it. We weren’t allowed to have visitors during that time and it was very lonely and no one spoke my language and I was often confused about what was going on. So then I got transported back to rehab and there I met Dr. Lisa. She became my Doctor and she took good care of me and encouraged me until I was well enough to be released to go home.

After my release, I got anxiety attacks for several months. Dr. Lisa explained that many people suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after going through things like I went through. Now the aftermath of this covid has a long healing with chronic pain, fatigue, brain fogginess which I'm still going through right now. I went back to work part time, trying my best for almost a year, with many flare ups of swelling, pain, problems walking and doing things. Then one day I was told the funds for the program I was working for had run out and I got laid off, and to this day I'm just home. I appreciate the chance to write a column for MHI and tell our story and to learn how to help teach others how to better manage their Diabetes and health.

The problems we have here on the reservation is that some of us don't have running water or electricity. And to get to town it's far to get groceries and to shop. My people are in need of stuff. Some of the navajos have livestock. They need hay, water, grains for their cattles, horses, sheep and goats. This pandemic put a toll on everybody not just only us but everywhere in the United States.

Jonathan Yazzie, Justina's brother, does self-initiated firewood cutting, hauling, and food deliveries for elderly and sick Navajo clan members.

MHI has sent them shipments of food, books, toys, educational materials and support for wood drives. We facilitated mind-body medicine training and continue working on bridging wifi limitations to expand Diabetes prevention and wellness education. We would like to ship shortwave radios and solar powered devices and charging stations along with more food, and support for maintenance of the truck and replacing a chainsaw.

We need your support to help us help them and expand these efforts. While we all give thanks, let’s remember to also support the Native Americans without whom many of the early European settlers would not have survived. Donate to and write Navajo Nation in the dedication.

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