Throughout the nineteen years together Eagle’s earth walk focused on his health. It was his strength, courage, and faith that made him a warrior. This became more apparent as the years went by. Let me tell you the story.
In our first year Eagle was diagnosed with diabetes. He talked the hospital doctor into an early discharge so we could make the drive to Regina, Saskatchewan, to fulfill his role as “Grandpa” in the CBC’s Story Theater production, “Grandpa and Me”, with Dakota House and Nathaniel Arcand. Eagle was very good about revising his diet and his exercise and, in February 1999, was declared to be not diabetic. However, his blood sugar slowly crept up and he had to continue the medications.
Eagle was diligent about going to the University of Alberta where he played squash (he still out-did the younger players consistently at 50 years) and jogged. His attention to diet and exercise resulted in his slimming down forty pounds. He felt so good about this . . . and he looked great! However, on (American) Thanksgiving Day 2000 he had a heart attack. We were at West Edmonton Mall and we slowly made our way to the van to get to the hospital across the street. He was transferred to another hospital and received a stent a few days later. All this was a total shock to Eagle who had controlled his blood sugar, his diet, and his exercise. Why did he have a heart attack? After all, he was in “good health” doing what he was supposed to be doing. (All those years of eating deep fried chicken and fast food had done their damage.)
Throughout his stay in Edmonton Eagle experienced stomach pains so bad that we would go to emergency for a diagnosis. The only answer he was given was pancreatitis by one emergency doctor. In fact prior to his heart attack at West Edmonton Mall he was not feeling good at all and we went to emergency where triage ignored him. His stomach pains continued and there was yet to be an answer to the problem.
After returning to Arizona in 2004 Eagle contacted West Nile Disease (from a mosquito bite). He had all the symptoms and was confined to bed for weeks during his recovery. He was completely drained of energy and did not exert himself without collapsing onto the bed for more rest. After his recovery Eagle drove tours to the Grand Canyon, to Hopi, and to Montezuma’s Caste. Everything was going well until May 2005 when, one morning, he was feeling totally awful. He went to ER in Sedona and was flown to Flagstaff where he received a second stent. After six years his stomach problem was finally diagnosed by a doctor who became his family physician. He had a hiatal hernia – a result of a block while running the ball in Golden Bear football. After going through the medical hoops of specialists and analysis, surgery was scheduled for March 2006 – after his concert with Rob Wallace and Thunderbeat at the Sedona Creative Life Center.
When Eagle returned home from surgery, he pointed to the spot and asked, “Why does it still hurt here?” His emergency visits continued and, on the fifth visit, an x-ray technician asked Eagle if he had anything metal in his pockets – Eagle said, “No.” The x-ray showed two pieces of ‘something’ that were not there before surgery (according to x-rays previous to the surgery). The surgeon immediately denied having anything to do with this outcome and expressed his opinion that “they were there prior to surgery”.
For twenty-two months Eagle was in and out of emergency and hospitals sixty-eight times!! He was put on heavy duty pain killers and told that the “mysterious abdominal pain” was just that. We would bring attention to the issue of foreign objects inside him and would be consistently told that shrapnel was no reason for the pain (as supported by many veterans who lived with it). We went to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and were told that his problem was diabetes – the doctor did not even address the issue at hand. Eagle also received a second surgery in Phoenix where multiple hernias were repaired (2007). However, a compassionate surgeon agreed to do a surgery to explore the cause of Eagle’s discomfort and it was at this time that the two pieces of surgical tools were removed (January 2008). And, miraculously, the “mysterious abdominal pain” disappeared.
Eagle had two years to file a law suit. Through a friend he was able to find a lawyer in Los Angeles who would take the case; the file was eventually moved to a lawyer in Phoenix. Eagle’s final quest was decided by the fact that the local county where the surgery occurred was not able to reimburse Eagle much more than the costs the trial would produce. This was also supported by the fact that there was no record in the sixty-eight hospital visits of the surgical tool pieces being the cause of the abdominal pain, although he was no longer in pain. Although the x-rays proved the negligence of the surgeon, the case was dropped.
Eagle now was not in pain and he looked forward to continue handcrafting his “Good Medicine” sterling silver jewelry and presenting the native culture with his native flute music. And, in August 2009, Eagle blindsided me with a marriage proposal! We married in Las Vegas and celebrated in beautiful Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. I returned to Canada to prepare for married life while Eagle continued to feel winded. In November 2009 he was to receive a stent only to be told he needed a triple bypass which was done in Flagstaff. Through the efforts of a friend I was able to secure a humanitarian parole through Senator Jon Kyle and I returned to Arizona for three months.
After surgery Eagle developed trash foot. This happens when the capillaries in the feet are deprived of blood flow. Eagle’s feet were very dry and now had cracks that needed attention. An ointment called “Callex” restored the cracks and all seemed to be going well. However, Eagle had a lot of foot pain and, again, was put on heavy duty pain killers.
In March my three month stay was ending and I returned to the Sweetgrass border station to plead my case to continue looking after Eagle. Meanwhile, Eagle now was experiencing severe nausea and was hospitalized and I had to leave. The hospital refused to continue care for Eagle in my absence and he was discharged. The trauma of being alone did not help Eagle at all and, when I returned, he made another emergency visit to help him recover from the anxiety that had grown in my absence. My stay was extended another six months.
In April 2010, Eagle had a stroke that was not diagnosed until after the 24 hour period of immediate attention required. He was transferred to Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Prescott Valley. Here he received physical therapy, speech therapy, and around the clock attention. Eagle also gave healing medicine from the native flute during his stay. I would wheel him around the halls while he played the native flute to the delight of everyone. Also, when able to eat in the cafeteria, he would play before he ate. One patient said that he would not eat until the music ended – it was a musical prayer of thanksgiving. Another patient said that, when Eagle played, the pain went away. Eagle, too, was devastated by the limitations the stroke gave him. Having been an athlete who came close to professional sports (baseball, hockey, and football), he truly missed the ski slopes and I missed the hill, too. (After all, he and Sunshine Village had taught me to ski downhill.)
After three and one half weeks Eagle returned home. His care was directed by his family physician who had a physio therapist in his office. This proved to be a Godsend. On one of the visits the therapist could not understand why Eagle’s balance was not improving. (Eagle’s stroke had affected the cerebellum which controlled the motor and involuntary actions of the body.) Upon a foot inspection we were told that Eagle had developed dry gangrene in his feet. (There were no visible signs, just a hard spot near the bone.) We were given a jar of plantain goldenseal salve which was applied twice daily on the sores that were not healing. After two months his feet were healed.
By this time Eagle’s body was rejecting the pain killers and he cold turkeyed the pills. Throughout the previous five months Eagle was on a regiment of pain killers and nausea medications. If the timing was not strictly kept – while daytime doses were set on Eagle’s cell phone alarm clock, nighttime doses were set on my phone – the pain became intolerable, just as with the earlier tool piece episode (when he only took the pain killer when absolutely necessary). In fact, the dose he was now on was four times what was previously prescribed. Now he did not need them and he was hospitalized during withdrawal.
Many of Eagle’s visits to ER were viewed as “drug seeking behavior” throughout his health history. Sometimes the doctors (who focused on the here and now) were amazed that he required the attention he was asking for – he was diabetic, had heart disease, hiatal hernia, trash foot, and the continuing issues resulting from these conditions. One doctor even gave him a dose that almost overdosed him! At no time was Eagle seeking drugs for addiction; if fact, he sought not to have them unless absolutely necessary and then only under hospital attention (after his withdrawal). Sometimes he required surgeries that needed to be done and, for the twenty-two months, there were times that immediate attention was needed to deal with the “flare ups”. Thank you for the compassionate nurses, doctors, and surgeons who came to Eagle’s aid.
My six month stay was coming to an end. Although we sought to proceed with proper paperwork to allow me to stay with Eagle, we decided to move to Vancouver, Canada, where Eagle had lived prior to his stay in Arizona/California/Las Vegas (before he returned to Edmonton to visit family in 1997, the year we met). Eagle still required medical attention throughout the next six years for heart, diabetes, ear-nose infections, neuropathy, and sleep apnea. Eagle always said he received excellent care by his doctors in Arizona and Vancouver. Thank you, emergency responders (including fire department and ambulance), and the many physicians who gave Eagle the attention he required in his many recoveries. I am still amazed that, with all the ailments he endured, he did not have any diabetic surgeries.
Throughout all this time (since 1998) Eagle sought to present the native culture with his native flute music and handcraft his “Good Medicine” sterling silver jewelry. There were times he was in pain, but his desire to perform and to present always took precedence. Eagle presented at schools, conferences, churches, hospitals (including Arizona State Hospital where a patient “healed” with Eagle’s music and teachings) and native markets. He performed at festivals (including the Fringe in Edmonton), weddings (in Sedona with Uqualla), Sedona resorts, and theatre (Heritage Place House in Gibsons, BC). He also sold his music and his handcrafted sterling silver jewelry he designed at local events (including Klahowya Village in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada).
Throughout all this time Eagle recorded six albums. He recorded when the music came to him – in the studio and out. He also enjoyed playing blackjack at the local casinos and, especially, in Las Vegas (Binion’s, the Boardwalk, and the Tropicana). And he enjoyed birthday dinners and he “got his kicks” on Route 66 on his 66th when he visited Sedona and Las Vegas.
This is my story about my warrior, Eagle Child. Strength, courage, and faith. I realize that many people face health challenges and traumatic experiences, and that everyone walks their journeys as they choose. Yet I truly do not feel that there are many people who have faced the many challenges Eagle endured and with the grace in which he did. Yes, sometimes the pain did the talking, but he himself was of gentle heart and soul. He passed in 2017.
by Myrna Child.
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