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RED ROCK, Okla. — On March 9, Otoe-Missouria Tribal Council Member Myra L. Pickering went to work at the tribal complex. As the day progressed, she started to feel ill with flu-like symptoms. She told the front office receptionist she was headed home and would be out the rest of the day.

Pickering went to the doctor that evening, who tested her for flu. She was negative. And because she hadn’t traveled abroad, she didn’t meet the criteria in Oklahoma for COVID-19 testing at that time.

Pickering was sent home with some antiviral medication and to rest. The doctor told her when she was 24 hours free of fever and she felt better, she could return to work.

On March 12, she returned to work where she took part in several meetings throughout the day. Including a meeting with the Noble County Health Department office and all tribal directors and executive director.

“One of the meetings I had that day was with a person from the Noble County Health Department who explained in the meeting that since there was no community spread in Oklahoma at the time, we as a community are fine for now” Pickering says. “So I personally felt OK with being at work.”

Then on March 15, Pickering had some symptoms that felt like allergies. They progressively got worse until she was continuously coughing and started to have shortness of breath. The next day, she went to Pawnee Indian Health Service to get checked out and they diagnosed her with pneumonia, gave her antibiotics and told her to follow up with the doctor the following Monday.

Pickering says at the time of the appointment she did not have a fever, so she did not meet the CDC guidelines to be tested for COVID-19.

On March 18, Pickering was feeling worse. She went to the Stillwater Emergency Room to get checked out, hoping for relief.

“They basically told me I was not considered critical and that my levels were all good so I would not be admitted,” Pickering says, “but if I got worse to return back. In my opinion, I thought I was worse. I could barely breath and I did not feel good! I could barely walk across the room without coughing and gasping for air. I had no air. It scared me.”

Pickering returned to the doctor’s office on March 23, where they diagnosed her with double pneumonia. The doctor finally made the decision to test her for COVID-19 because the criteria for testing had changed since her previous doctor visits. She was advised to return to the Stillwater Emergency Room again to see if she could be admitted.

“They told me again that I was not considered critical and that my levels were all good so therefore I would not be admitted,” Pickering says. “They sent me home, again.”

On March 24, Pickering’s test results came back positive for COVID-19 and she was told by Pawnee Indian Health Service Infectious Control Nurse that her, her husband and son would need to self-quarantine themselves for the next 2 weeks (14 days). She was also told that the Pawnee County Health Department would be in contact with her soon.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Instead, healthcare providers are treating symptoms at home. Pickering is drinking her fluids, resting, doing medicated breathing treatments.

“I’m not as sick as I was last week, but I’m still struggling at times to breathe,” Pickering says. “I am not out of the woods yet. I don’t have a fever and have been fever free for the past 48 hours. I’m just coughing now.”

In her early 40s and healthy, she didn’t expect to get this sick.

“The only underlying medical condition I have is diabetes, but it is controlled,” Pickering says. “I have no idea how I got the virus, but now that Oklahoma has confirmed community exposure, it could have been from anywhere.”

Pickering says the reason she is telling her story is because she wants people to take the warning seriously. It is true that this virus does not discriminate.

“The tribe and casinos are closed,” Pickering says. “I want people to listen to what the healthcare experts are saying. Educate yourself. Stay home if at all possible. Practice social distancing. This is real and it’s serious. I’m struggling to catch my breath and there is nothing anyone can do to help me. The Stillwater hospital won’t even keep me. It’s been really scary for me and my family. Please keep, not only me and my family in your prayers, but our entire Otoe-Missouria Tribe, elders, youth and our community. I do not want any of my tribal members to contract this virus, it’s no good!”

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Levi Rickert
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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]