Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 31, 2020

Navajo grandmother with COVID-19 victim of neglect and assault in hospitals

An 80-year old grandmother fighting for her life with coronavirus was first denied needed oxygen at Gallup Indian Medical Center, then assaulted at UNM's Sandoval Medical Center in Albuquerque. Her granddaughter shares her story of the family's fight to save their grandmother's life. We share her story with permission.

This is my paternal grandma (nalii), 80 years young, she's been through alot in the pass couple weeks. On May 16 her test for COVID 19 came back positive. On May 19 we took her to Gallup Indian Medical Center and she was evaluated. Nalii was told her oxygen was at 86 percent. No oxygen was administered.
We decided to take nalii to Sandoval Regional UNM. I called SRUNM to let them know I'll be bringing in my nalii.

Nalii was admitted with very low oxygen due to COVID 19. She's been stable for a couple days; diagnosed with pneumonia and an embolus in both left and right lungs The hospital wanted her discharged by May 22, 2020. 
I've called and talked with the case managers, nurses and doctors. My cousin made some calls and helped me get other people involved from Molina Healthcare's executive director to our council delegate.
They worked hard and quick. I've asked the case managers for a Dine' speaking interpreter and was told none was available. I asked them why and they told me it was because of COVID 19.
For this reason (Dine' translating) I stayed in the parking lot day and night, so my nalii knows I'm there, she's not alone and I would report to her with her updates. I also had to make sure her care and needs were met.
I know my nalii very well, her tone of voice was off, her breathing was off, her level of response was off. So family members, our council delegate and I fought for her to remain at her stay at SRUNM for further observations.
On May 24, 2020 my nalii desatted while I was talking to her on the phone. It was a scary knowing I couldn't help her, I cried and spoke her name repeatedly but no answer. Alarms had went off and I could hear the nurses talking. Then after more than 30 minutes someone finally hung up.
Nalii was transferred to ICU, she was put on 75L of optiflow (oxygen). A doctor P. called me and told me my nalii was in ICU. She then started telling me that once an elderly reaches this stage there's no turning back and to be ready if anything bad were to happen. She then told me we'll keep her comfortable with morphine and she won't be fighting for breaths. She said in her experience the elderly don't survive after this stage.
I told my family members right away. I had a really bad anxiety attack. I cried and couldn't breathe, started praying and told the Creator I'm not ready, to give me more time with my nalii.
My aunt and I would call nalii every day, my aunt and cousin would come every day to sit with me. Waiting outside the hospital getting updates. I would call the nurse more than 3 time a day and would call my nalii just to hear her voice and we'd tell her that she's doing really well to keep breathing. I told her to keep moving her body, not to give up, to keep fighting. I asked her questions, told her about the kids, talked to her about different things encouraging her to eat.
My cousin would make her blue corn mush, another family member made dumpling stew she even got banana bread. She was not happy with hospital food, so I took her what she wanted menudo, sardines, V8, apple juice, blue corn mush, beans.
She finally ate home food and started getting her strength back. It was quite a fight from May 24th to May 28th. She was feeling a lot better on May 29th, she even sang to her grandson and kept her oxygen level at a good degree.
On May 29th during the evening she told my aunt and I to go home and get some rest, that she'll be ok. She told me to go home and check on your kids, make sure you cook for them. So I thought ok she's still in ICU but she's doing very well so I left around 10 pm and went home to Torreon.
May 30th 2020, I was cooking and my phone rang, it was my nalii. I was so happy she called me. She then started talking about an incident that happened with her. She told me that 4:32 am a black nurse lady had rudely thrown her blanket off while she was still asleep, saying she has to get x-rays done. The nurse said for her to get up, my grandma is very private. So nalii reached for her blanket to cover herself back up and the nurse threw the blanket off of her body, the blanket fell on the floor. My 80-year-old nalii with her might tried to kick the nurse. The nurse plus the lady from radiology laughed at her. The nurse then came up to her and grabbed her hair and yanked her with her hair telling her to get up. My nalii hardly has hair and said where the nurse yanked her hair hurts. I told her I'll be right there to file some reports.
I texted my family right away finished cooking and started driving the 90 plus miles to the hospital my nalii is staying at.
I got to the hospital, called my nalii to have her tell me what happened again. She had told my aunt also. I called the house supervisor and reported the incident and she told me the person that takes care of the incident reports won't be in until Monday so she'll get back to me on Monday. I also called the state police to report the incident to a Dine; speaking officer and for the Dine' speaking officer to call my nalii. The New Mexico State Police officer was not able to take a report because my nalii was sleeping. The NMSP officer will be off till Wednesday, he'll take her report till then. I had to call the floor nalii is staying on to keep that person away from my nalii.
My nalii went through major hardship in the past couple days. I pray my nalii gets justice. Why is SRUNM letting this happen? I bet the black lady earned another dollar today knowing she abused my nalii. Why would SRUNM let this happen? I'm really tired. I'm asking for help, I'm fighting for my Nalii, my whole family is fighting for my Nalii.
I want people to give this incident some attention, my 80-year-old grandma fought a COVID 19 and still had to fight discrimination.
--Mar Tru

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