July. I set off with a new team to the reservation just 5 days ago. Char, Stacy, and Solvei made for great travel companions as we headed west. I say new team, because 2 of my last 3 trips were with a trusted teammate, Peg Corey. But those two trips were in November. November. Both trips ended with mother nature chasing us out of the great state of SD with blizzards! So I deliberately changed my routine and chose to travel during July this year instead. As we made our way west into the badlands last Sunday, we noticed thick smoke to the south. We soon learned that a prairie fire was spreading not far from us. We finished our day aware but not overly concerned about the fire. We left the badlands at Interior, and descended into the valley during the late evening. 15-20 miles in the distance, the glowing fire really contrasted with the night sky. It was an impressive site to see. We could only imagine how big the flames would be up close, and we all became very respectful of the fire. On Monday we learned that the flames were in fact quite close to the clinic. We sensed some of the anxieties of staff and patients alike as their loved ones, homes, and land were being threatened by the wildfire. In the end, the firefighters prevailed over several days, but it was a little tense at times. Mother nature also provided us with 100 plus degree heat on most days, and one good thunderstorm (beautiful to watch). She has made her point to me…that I can run (from November) but I can’t hide (in July)!
Back to my team…we had a fun and adventurous group. They were always ready for new experiences. Each of my teammates achieved firsts in their own way. On Sunday, Char showed bravery as she climbed a rope ladder, all 50 steps, up a cliff in the badlands. Then she did this in reverse (ask Stacy for pictures) to get back to the van! On Monday, Solvei fell head over heels during her new experiences in the Wanblee clinic- her first taste of medicine will be memorable for sure! Finally Stacy was very proud of her 1st– more of a first place really, when she extracted a personal best gumball sized piece of ear wax from a thankful patient. She healed the man- he could hear again! But in all seriousness, a great group that revealed the perfect blend of hard work, flexibility, and eagerness to go have some fun!
Finally, I must say that I always enjoy the good sense of humor that the Lakota all seem to have. Almost everyone is quick with a smile, and ready for a good laugh. This makes it very easy to enjoy coming to the reservation to see these warm and welcoming people each year. It is our honor to be able to participate in their healthcare.