By Logan Brodsky
Viterbo Student Nurse – Class of 2016
April 4, 2016: Day one on the Pine Ridge Reservation included touring The Oglala College Historical Museum, assessing children at the Porcupine Headstart, indulging in the history of Wounded Knee, enjoying a beverage at Higher Ground Café in Pine Ridge, experienced grocery shopping on the reservation, and learning about the history of the Lakota people.
As Viterbo Student Nurses we feel as though we should be able to assist those who need help. As we drove through Whiteclay, Nebraska, it was evident the need on the Pine Ridge Reservation is great. All of us were utterly shocked by the view of this small town. Whiteclay contains nothing but liquor stores; liquor stores in which the Lakota people travel to buy their alcohol.
The change in this reservation needs to start with the Lakota people. There needs to be a desire established. A reason to live and succeed. After this culture shock, we discussed ways in which we, the Lakota people, the state of South Dakota, and the nation can enhance the reservation. The reservation needs to be supplied with resources in which they find motivation, such as jobs. This experience will forever be in our minds and hearts. We will take what we have seen and apply it in our own practice. We will forever be more mindful and patient with those of different cultures.
There are many factors that influence a population’s health. Access to health care, healthy food options, and social supports, among other things, are all determinants of health. Global Partners makes a huge difference in affecting the access Natives on the reservation have to healthcare; however, there are other determinants that are lacking. We explored one in particular today, that being healthy food options. Having a healthy diet is so important in managing chronic diseases like coronary artery disease, heart failure, and diabetes; all of which are prevalent on the reservation. However, natives do not have access to the wide selection and quality of foods we do outside the reservation. To make the point clear, we went to the town Kyle’s grocery store and attempted to put together a week’s worth of meals for a family of four on $20, about what a family on the reservation would have to spend. It was honestly impossible. A bag of six pieces of fruit cost almost $7, some limp celery about $3, and even a half gallon of juice was $5. The Lakota people on this reservation are so very limited in their resources and cannot possibly attain a healthy lifestyle when they are not given the very basic necessities to do so.
A Lakota man, Dakota, was kind enough to talk to everyone with Global Partners. Dakota spoke about his Lakota ancestors and their way of life. He explained the history of the Lakota people through Lakota eyes. He explained their hardships and their need for assistance. As nursing students, we realized how much trust we put into healthcare. We go to our primary physician expecting to be diagnosed or healed. All Americans do not feel this way. The Lakota people have been betrayed by The United States Government that they do not completely trust the healthcare system. It is important for us to understand this; as nurses we can take this into consideration and provide “care.”
Our first day on the Pine Ridge Reservation has been one we will never forget. We are very excited to see what the next few days have in store as we travel to the high school in Kyle and to other head start locations in the area.
April 6, 2016: Day three on the reservation was spent at Crazy Horse High School in Wanblee, SD. The day was jam packed with a health fair and physicals for students. Again and again, I am so impressed with the resilience of these children. When 40% of them live in homes without heat or electricity and 60% of the adults in their life are alcoholics, it’s hard to believe they still greet us with smiles and hugs. Specifically, I did some education for third and fourth graders about poisoning and what they should do if someone ingests a poison. Some of the discussion revolved around how alcohol, cigarettes, and medications could be poison for our bodies. Again and again, in every group of kids I talked to, someone would quickly and nonchalantly bring up a story about suicide or alcohol abuse. It was heart wrenching.
The kids here are amazing, and despite what they endure, are hopeful. Today I learned so much, not just about these kids but that in my life I have so much to be thankful for; because even my hardest day will not compare to their normal day here on the reservation.
Our instructor, Shelly, and other members of our team with the mannequins & an awesome mural covering the wall in the school gymnasium.
By Lyndon Becker
On April 5th, we were teaching CPR and other first aide skills to high schoolers at Little Wound School in Kyle, SD. The students were what you would expect from typical high school students as some were more engaged than others and some didn’t take it quite so seriously. To be honest, I probably would have acted the same at that age.
Overall, we were able to help educate many about how to perform potential life saving interventions. It felt pretty awesome knowing this could literally save someone’s life in the future due to the overall health risks for the people who live on the reservation.
After teaching CPR for a while, I traded with some fellow classmates and assisted with vision screenings on kindergarteners. This went relatively well for most students. There was one student that will forever remain in my memory. This young gentleman was having trouble reading the chart and began to get weepy eyed because he couldn’t read all the symbols on the chart. (His eyes weren’t actually as bad as he thought). I did my best to comfort him and related to him that I, too, could not read the chart. After a short while, he was alright and back to coloring before returning to class.
Overall, this day was eye opening as we were interacting with the students of a school that has the highest suicide rate on the reservation. Working with both the young kindergarteners with all their spunk and resiliency to the middle and high schoolers where depression and mental illness begin, was a pretty amazing experience. I can tell from the day I began this trip it is one that I will remember for years to come.
To end the day we had chili, baked potatoes, and laughed hysterically over our game of catch phrase. “Flock of Seagulls.”
Outside mural of Crazy Horse School – Go Chiefs! & Dr. Bera helping with physicals (in foreground of photo)
By Steve Manson
Our team spent the last two days at Little Wound and Crazy Horse schools where we did athletic participation exams. These allow the kids to play sports, a positive and protective activity. Our work on-site keeps them from having to miss school time and ensures they are completed before the start of the season. We were joined by the Health Science Academy students and members of the Viterbo nursing program who also conducted first aid and CPR training.We have been warmly received and made to feel welcome by our Lakota friends. This is my 10th trip to the Rez and one of my favorite experiences in my life.
Stations at the First Aid Fair & Accident ‘victim’ ready for the car accident scene
By Lori Miskell
April 5th, what a busy day! This is always our busiest day on this trip. We went to Little Wound school to present a First Aid Fair for kids aged 6-12. It was a hit with the middle and high school kids. They were very engaged in learning about burns, splints/sprains,CPR/AED, and choking. In addition, we had a car accident scene that included instructions on how to put someone in a recovery position. In fact, we certified 88 students with CPR as well as some of the teachers! Overall we saw well over 200 kids that participated in the stations.
Lakota student at one of the first aid fair stations & practicing CPR skills
While we were doing the First Aid Fair, Dr. Manson and the Viterbo team did physicals and vision screenings. It was a very busy and fulfilling day. The students were very polite and ready to learn and I feel that it was a great experience for all of us. It is very inspiring to hear the stories and struggles of the kids and yet see them excelling in school. There are teachers on the reservation who go above and beyond for these kids everyday, on levels that we will never fully comprehend or appreciate. Sports is very important here, especially basketball. For example, a lot of games are out of town, and taking 2-4 hours of travel one way. In addition, they may have to change time zones gaining an hour, meaning they have to leave the reservation by 5:30 am. That may not be a big deal where we live, but here most students take the bus to school because their families do not have transportation or live out in the country, sometimes riding a bus for over an hour to get to school. Thus, the challenge of just getting the kids to school for the bus takes a Herculean effort. It is very humbling.