COVID-19 survivor: 'Take care of each other'

Indian Country Today

We check back in with Meskwaki police officer Vern Jefferson to see how he's recovering from COVID-19. And national correspondent Mary Annette Pember tells us about her visits with Trump supporters.

On April 16th we first spoke with Meskwaki police officer Vern Jefferson. He had just been released from the hospital after battling COVID-19. We check back with him to see how his recovery is going. Plus our national correspondent Mary Annette Pember who's written several election stories recently, stops by to tell us about voters who support President Trump.  

Here are some quotes from today's show.

Vern Jefferson:

"Overall I'm not too bad. I'm still making improvements. I still attend physical therapy and what they're doing right now is trying to work on my breathing. I was told my capillaries or my sacks in my lungs are kind of blocked still. So I've been doing a lot of running. When I do sprints I end up wheezing towards the end. I think that I have to really push myself o get things done and get things accomplished. So biking and running, swimming is really hard for me right now with my breathing. It's just taking a little bit to catch up. Initially the doctors said it would take about three months to a year to catch up to where I was before and it's been about maybe like six months now."

"It was very hard to breathe. I had to take short breaths and then the coughing would start. I would fight so hard not to cough because the pain was so horrible I had to take these short coughs and breathing and I mean there are times that. I wasn't sure I was gonna make it out. I got pretty winded just walking up the stairs. I mean I've made a lot of progress. I know one time we were trying to put a trampoline together now just moving these lightweight little bars and I just I just can do it. I may be helped for 20 minutes to half an hour and I was done for the day. That was like ten o'clock in the morning at ten o'clock at night I sat around with my oxygen. But now I'm planning to run this afternoon. It will probably be four or five miles. Definitely not to where I used to be but I'm still trying to build up my endurance and push myself to be positive and just really work at getting to where I used to be and I think that that helps out a lot with my recovery."

"We have to be safe. We have to take care of each other. If people provide guidelines, people should follow those. I was told we had a ceremony going on here and there was someone that tested positive over there. So I went to go get tested again and they said there's no record of anyone getting killed COVID-19 a second time so you don't need to be tested. I have the antibodies to it. So I don't wear a mask anymore but I do out of courtesy to others so they don't get fearful. There's a lot of fear instilled into people. But for me the biggest thing I think is mentally that you can really be sick and you can really be done but your attitude really helps you out a lot. 

"If you're gonna be down, it feels like that mentally. People get down and it doesn't help your healing process because it's a whole combination of your energy that you have inside you to be up and positive and being up and staying positive. But if you get down then it seems like your immune system goes down also. So if you're up and positive it seems like it becomes a pure immunity and you’re up and ready to go. So I think that's my biggest thing. For people to know that if they're going to get it, is to stay positive. And you know it's not nice to go through but having a positive attitude, working through prayer and using traditional medicine to help you through it. Asking for the Creator for help is and you know it really helps out a lot."

Mary Annette Pember:

"It was really interesting. I spoke to Native folks who support Donald Trump and they were a little bit hard to find. As far as quote unquote regular people versus people that are running for public office. I was able to find some people that are very active in social media in supporting our President Trump's reelection. I found a man who is actually Salt River Pima tribe. He runs a couple of social media sites. He calls himself the Native conservative. He feels pretty strongly on issues that many of the other Trump voters feel on. Common threads are sort of this mistrust and betrayal by democratic party and politicians. A very high level of mistrust of the mainstream press, and the sense of estrangement, I think for mainstream politics and a weariness with the stagnant nature of like social and economic growth in Native communities."

"No and that was very interesting. Nobody did. Of course I was really only able to speak directly with three people. People were a little bit nervous about being attributed, in other words, sharing their name with their opinions. All of the people that I did speak to actually voted for either Bernie Sanders last time. And they all voted for Obama. So they've all done this, you know three 80 degree 180 degree turnaround for their political support. So that was very interesting."

"I took a look at the Indian Child Welfare ACT. Which as you may know, is currently under review by the fifth circuit district court about its constitutionality. Which is very, very serious. It's currently being considered under a process called en banc. Which is an unusual legal process in which they examine a decision that was previously made by that court. But all of the judges participate. Now previously the fifth district found that ICWA was indeed constitutional, but they've elected to review it en banc. January will be a year since they began the hearing. So we're going quite a long time and it's difficult to predict which way it will go. Some of the legal scholars I spoke to said that their length of time may predict that we will see quite the lengthy dissents being issued. So I think it does not really bode well for the constitutionality of ICWA. And then certainly it's very likely it would go to the Supreme court. And that if Amy Coney Barrett is in fact confirmed she would be potentially finding on this very important act for Indian Country. She has adopted two children from Haiti and we thought it was at least worthwhile when we look at the way that Supreme court nominees, both their personal lives and their legal experience, are scrutinized. I looked at this actually a 65 page long questionnaire that they have them fill out. And actually they do want to know if anything in their lives either professional or personally might potentially interfere with their judgment. So we did feel it was a valid area to explore."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider. 

Also on Today's show:

Mary Annette Pember, citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is national correspondent for Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @mapember. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pember loves film, books and jingle dress dancing

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