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Letters: Living a nightmare: my COVID experience

I’m writing this letter as I await discharge from Tuba City Health Care Corporation Hospital. I contracted this horrible virus around the middle part of March from someone who was exposed but didn’t know and I, in turn, didn’t know.

I wanted to convey my experience because it seems as if people who have not contracted this virus don’t truly understand what happens to your body as the virus is invading your organs. The following description may be graphic to some, but people need to hear a first-hand account and maybe it will give pause to some and they may be more inclined to not be out in public and to obey the stringent guidelines that have been put in place.

Remember that this is my story and I’m conveying truths and facts. The first symptom was the unceasing coughing coming from deep inside the lungs that hurts your whole chest.

Unbeknownst to me, the virus had already invaded my lungs and was multiplying rapidly. Then followed the sore throat. I lost my sense of smell, taste and my appetite. Next came the unrelenting headaches. I felt an intense fatigue over my whole body. It was difficult to even stand without feeling like I was going to fall down.

Another pain enveloped my whole being. I truly felt that the pain was in every muscle, every ligament, every fiber and every bone. The pain from my lungs as I struggled to breathe was so intense that it felt like a knife was cutting through my chest. I developed a tightening in the back of my neck where it felt rigid and I couldn’t turn my head.

I developed chills where I was shaking with cold even though the heat was on and I was wrapped in blankets. The continuous coughing up of phlegm. Let’s not forget the vomiting and nausea. Not just one time, it was continuous. The uncontrollable diarrhea was the worst. I had also developed infections in my stomach and kidney. I had pneumonia in both lungs. I describe all of this so you’ll understand what this virus does to your body. It. Can. Kill. You. Very. Easily. Very. Quickly.

My experience with this was mine. Others may not have the severity that I did and a lot of people have died. Please try to understand what the person who has it is going through. Have compassion. Have empathy. This is not something to joke about.

I am disheartened to read the opinions of some people who advocate violence and even shooting to death those who have contracted this deadly virus. Have we devolved to such a degree that we’re emulating the outside world? Have we developed such hard hearts that it comes so easily to the tongue to ridicule those who are suffering?

I refuse to believe that. I am happy to see so many good-hearted people stepping up and helping others without being asked. They saw the need and selflessly fulfilled that need. As this invisible, deadly monster has a grip on your body, as it’s slowly killing you, you, of course, begin to beg for your life. My survival and discharge today from the hospital bears a testament that prayers said on my behalf, appeals to the Holy People have been heard. I received excellent care at TCRHCC hospital.

All the doctors, nurses and CNAs were very professional and had compassion and empathy. Now that you have heard my story, I ask you to step back and listen, truly listen, curb your sharp tongue and hear the cries and tears of children who have lost their mothers, fathers, of families losing their sons, daughters, of losing their masaanis, nalis, cheis, brothers and sisters. The grief is deep and tears apart your very soul.

It’s even more heart-rending to not ever see your loved one again, to not be able to say goodbye. When they get flown off in a helicopter, they truly are alone from that time on. When people die from this deadly, invisible monster, it is painful.

The immediate feeling is disbelief, shock and numbness. I felt like I was living a nightmare that I couldn’t awaken from. My son-in-law lost his mom, his sister (who leaves a 6-year-old child behind), his aunt and his cousin brother within a time period of one-and-a-half weeks. So, if this narrative doesn’t convince you to stay home and obey the laws in place, I don’t know what more I can say.

Thank you for reading this long letter.

Rita Bilagody
Toh’ nanees dizi, Ariz.

Only hope is to honor old lifeways

The COVID-19 virus invades unsuspecting human bodies destroying lives, families and futures. It gives no exemption for economic status, physical strength, or color of skin.

It seeks life to give death. It is alive with death. It brings down the famous and powerful. The disadvantaged are easy prey. There is little refuge from the killer virus. This enemy of life exposes the vulnerabilities of the “greatest” country on the planet.

It cripples the best of Western science and medicine. Our frontlines to repel this enemy are becoming defenseless. They are tired, they look for relief that may not come.

We thank them and pray them peace and strength. The faithful and the faithless ask why God allowed this to happen. We seek for answers, we ponder and we try to find reason.

This must be a message that we have drifted too far from the teachings of life we were set on this earth with. Mankind teeters on the brink of self-annihilation with the damage caused the Earth Mother. Perhaps the virus is the discipline whip of the earth. God cleanses his creation in times of great disorder — perhaps it is that time.

We want things to come back to normal, but things have not been normal for indigenous peoples. We are the most vulnerable with our diabetes due to junk food and government commodities.

We have heart and respiratory issues because of carbon pollution, uranium cancers and poisoned waters. Our hospitals are under-funded and we live in overcrowded housing with poverty conditions. There is a great imbalance in this modern day. Violence is perpetrated upon the earth and her children who live to live the original instructions. The Creator gave us a certain way to live and to have certain beliefs. We were blessed with these teachings on how to live life for happiness.

The original instructions prescribe a life of K’é, a family relation with all life, all of creation. It requires ajoobah (compassion), truth, humility, respect, honor and courage. The one hope we have is to remember and honor the lifeways the Creator originally intended for us.

Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

COVID exposes our core condition

In hindsight and onward, the COVID-19 pandemic began its covert disruption on human life, including its economy and socio-political system within the dominant society, and with blazing fury it hit our homeland.

Even though safety and health information were disseminated on how not to contribute to the rate of this viral infection, the proposed prevention seemed of no avail. The cost of such social disobedience is a reflection of the dominant society, as in death and in the collapse of dreams and aspirations of the push-and-shove competition mentality of individualism.

Before proceeding further, note that the personal opinion herein is perceived through a common sense viewpoint. And here we are, as the pandemic continues to expose and separate facts from fiction, insights from delusions, genuine from superficial, empathy from apathy, and strength from fear. This cleansing process reveals our true character as we interact with our perception. And what this pandemic exposes is — we do have a core problem.

This is proven. It is apparent on a daily basis within the dominant society, and it worsens as a collective. And is this the reason why panic turns into blame? Perhaps this core problem is the motive why enablers and supporters, willing to drink disinfectants, and rally around their demented, attention-starving leaders, to have them utter confusion and do the unthinkable? Possibly this is why individuals who get infected unknowingly start contamination to family and associates?

And maybe this is the cost why those in public service responsible to the plight of our needy and less fortunate overlook or abandon them? And mostly, this is the root cause for the intentional desecration and destruction of our home planet along with its atmosphere?

Each day we hear about them as a reactive symptom of extremes, whether as erratic, bizarre behavior, or with stern, cold viewpoint composure. This is what generates our communication disorder of not listening. Also as to why we mistreat our encounters, including criminal impulses for social deviant and disobedience. The symptom is a distortion or broken self-images seeking reassurance for its self-worth through sadistic means, thus parasitical.

There is so much noise and distractions out there where we cannot hear the soft voice of our innate (soul) as it speaks to us with truth, insights, intuition, and creativity, concerning our survival. If a voice is heard and if mind, body, and soul are not in sync, it becomes nonsense and counterproductive. It is as though we are more afraid of change than the virus itself. This could be viewed as a planetary renewal, as we experience the cleansing and delivery pain of rebirth.

This is because for some time, without consequences, we as a species enjoyed our total disregard towards Mother Earth and Father Sky with our insane devastations of climate and ecology of life. Through our ignorance we continue to sever our inter-connective relationship of our silver cord lifeline. Now that nature makes its stand, are we stuck with our core problem? This issue is our extreme difficulty in distancing ourselves from our addiction to the sickness of arrogance, all because of the pathetic state of our mental health condition.

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

Quit spitting snots on Mother Earth!

Just to let you know, I/we try to stay home and only go out to town when needed. Tuesday of this week we had to go out. I was shocked by how many Navajos were not wearing masks or staying away from each other. And when they coughed or sneezed, they don’t cover their mouth. And then blowing their snots on the floor.

Now I can see why this illness is getting us. Yes, we have the enemy and they are us. As a Navajo, I cannot understand this. Can you remind all our people that this disease is for real? Please ask them to wear a mask/hanky that covers their nose and mouth. And quit spitting snots on Mother Earth.

John Martinez
Haystack, N.M.

Epidemic shaped Wauneka’s life

Annie Dodge Wauneka, tribal leader of the Navajo Nation and public health activist, worked tirelessly to improve the health and welfare of the Navajo Tribe and reduce the incidence of tuberculosis nationwide.

Born in 1910 in a traditional Navajo hogan, Wauneka was raised by her father, Chee Dodge, one of the wealthiest men of the Navajo Tribe. While taught Navajo history and culture, Wauneka also gained a general education. When she was eight, while attending a government-run school on the reservation, a tragic event occurred that helped shape the rest of her life. An influenza epidemic struck.

Thousands of Navajos, including many of Wauneka’s classmates, died. Wauneka escaped with only a mild case that left her resistant to the disease. Thus she was able to care for those who were too ill to feed themselves. After graduation and her marriage to George Wauneka, Annie continued to travel with her father, observing the poverty and disease that plagued most of the Navajo.

She studied public health and then, realizing that the best way to change the standards of health and sanitation among tribal members was from within, Wauneka gained election in 1951 to the tribal Council, the second woman ever so elected.

During her three terms in office, Wauneka led the fight against tuberculosis. She wrote a dictionary to translate English words into Navajo for modern medical techniques, such as vaccination. Her weekly radio broadcasts, in the Navajo language, explained how modern medicine could help improve health among the Navajo. She also worked on other health problems, including better care for pregnant women and new babies, regular eye and ear examinations, and alcoholism.

She continued working in her community on health issues until her death in 1997. She helped improve housing and sanitation conditions and convinced her tribe to adopt many modern medical practices and avail themselves of hospital care, when needed. She also served on the advisory boards of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service.

In 1963, Wauneka became the first Native American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Ladies Home Journal selected her as Woman of the Year in 1976. In 1984, the Navajo Council designated her “The Legendary Mother of the Navajo Nation.”

All recognized that through her efforts in education and health, the lives of every Navajo, as well as the nation at large, have been improved.

James R. Dodge
Worthington, Mass.

UMWA controlling mine reclamation work

Ya’at’eeh. My name is Joseph Farland. I am of the Red House Clan, born for the Folded Arms Clan. My maternal grandparents are Towering House Clan and my paternal grandparents are Bitter Water Clan. I am from Kayenta, Arizona.

The reason I am writing this letter is because I am being told to go to hell and being threatened by United Mine Workers of America union reps, namely Jessie Chief.

A year before the Peabody-Kayenta Mine was shut down, I was a non-union worker and no longer a member of the UMWA. At the time I was having some issues with the union and safety personnel, so I opted out of the union since Arizona is a “Right to Work” state.

A “Right to Work” state means that if you are a member of a union in Arizona, and you decide to resign from the union, you may not be fired for that reason. Now I found out that the UMWA. took my name off the recall panel for the reclamation work.

Since I am non-union, why was I on their panel? This scrapbook from back east did its job for the workers and now they are holding onto it, using it to dictate who will and can work the reclamation part. There is no more coalmining and power plant, so why hold onto it?

I, myself, would like to re-apply to work closer to home, even with a pay cut. Lately, I have been working in Yuma, Arizona, for decent pay, but would like to go back.

I am not upset with the UMWA members, just the official reps: Marie Justice, union president (Page, Arizona); Jessie Chief, rec. secretary (Kayenta); Alex Osif, union safety (Kayenta); Daniel Billie, financial (Chilchinbeto, Arizona); and Eugene Platero, grievance (Kayenta).

Go to their UMWA union meeting in Kayenta, (which by the way is never publicly posted) and get with them to discuss the reason they think they have the God-given right to be the hiring body for reclamation work.

Hopefully, one of the tribal Council members sees this and makes the decision to take a look at the UMWA’s practices. Perhaps the UMWA contract needs to be re-negotiated.

You see NECA, NTUA, Navajo Gaming and Peabody presenting a check every year to the tribal president for scholarships and the General Fund. Have you ever seen UMWA presenting a check to them? There is no k’e among these reps and they think they are above others. Us operators would all like to work close to home, through a decent hiring process.

Thank you.

Joseph Farland
Kayenta, Ariz.


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