This week, we check in with a healthcare leader for a reflection on how the pandemic has been. Feven Gerezgiher reports.
At the forefront of the fight against COVID these last two years have been health care workers trying to deliver primary care while also keeping boots to the ground with vaccine and testing clinics.
Antony Stately is an Executive Officer and President for the Native American Community Clinic in the Twin Cities.
“My name is Antony Stately…I am an enrolled citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and am a descendant of the great Red Lake and White Earth nations of Minnesota.”
Stately said staff had to pivot rapidly and also deal with the grief of losing patients they had been connected to, some for generations.
“All of that was very hard and very difficult, really difficult work. So people were burned out, right, and we lost a lot of staff, we had a lot of turnover. And, within the context of all of that it was, within the context of all of that it was, it was a Herculean effort to stay open, and to continue to deliver services, so and then having to take care of your own heart and your own personal experiences,” said Antony.
Fall of 2020, Stately’s entire family caught COVID-19. He was hospitalized for a week.
“That was a really defining and scary moment, I think in my own personal experience of it. So I was afraid. I think on the second day, it dawned on me that I might not get out of the hospital and not get to see my kids again. I think which is, for me was probably the most it’s probably easily the most disheartening situation ever. Like I just cannot imagine not getting out of the hospital and not seeing my children again, it’s a heartbreaking, heartbreaking moment,” said Antony.
He said parenting two teen boys through a pandemic has been hard…whether that’s trying to keep them safe or trying to help with school work.
“They were doing distance learning, you know, and God, my ability to help them with algebra was like, you know, Jesus, I have a PhD, and I was like, I’ve never felt more stupid in all my life trying to figure out how to help them with algebra, eighth grade algebra, I was like, wow, this is really sad,” said Antony.
Stately points to how quickly the Omicron variant spread as an example of how COVID mutates and is still a threat we need to be on guard for.
He shared a story from his mother.
“There’s the story of the buffalo and the storm, which is, in situations in which there’s adversity, and certainly the pandemic is like an adverse experience, it’s very prolonged, right? It’s like one of those big huge storms on the prairie that comes rolling on you right away, kind of like the way the pandemic showed up on us. And the way that buffalo behave in a storm is very different than other types of mammals, particularly in comparison to its closest relative perhaps, which is a cow. It behaves differently. They huddle together, they put their most vulnerable in the center. And they don’t move away from the storm or try to run it or go around it. They head right into the storm, they face it head on and they confront adversity. And I think that’s the spirit by which we have to sort of kind of continue to do this work, which is, face it head on and persevere and get through it.
And knowing that on the other side of this adverse experience, this big storm, this pandemic, there’s beauty, there’s abundance, we get to be social, we get to be with one another again. yes, we’ll lose some people and yes, there will be loss. But as long as Creator gives us breath and as long as Creator gives us strength to persevere and move forward, there’s these other gifts on the other side of that.”
Miigwetch to Antony Stately for sharing with us.
For the Minnesota Native News Health Report, I’m Feven Gerezgiher