|I loved my mint julep!|
|Casey did not seem to enjoy her mint julep!|
|The most memorable picture from the trip!|
|I loved my mint julep!|
|Casey did not seem to enjoy her mint julep!|
|The most memorable picture from the trip!|
Happy birthday, Mamsie! I love you!
|Vikings fan? Nah...just a Sturgis-goer!|
|Main Street, Sturgis, SD|
|Who says I look out of place?|
|The Biggest Biker Bar in Sturgis!|
|My favorite bike - a vintage Indian|
Written on 07 August 2011
Greetings, blog fans! Our second week in Rosebud has officially come to an end, and thus, I find it fitting to give you all a brief update on our adventures in the Wild
West. The past week at the hospital was great – I really enjoy the people I’m working with, and I love the freedom that I have to make clinical recommendations and fully use my knowledge. It’s been a very rewarding experience, thus far.
I spent all day Friday in the operating room to observe surgeries. I’ll spare the gory details, but I must admit, it was a very interesting way to spend the day. The first surgery I watched was a Caesarian section. I was amazed at how quickly a C-section is performed. Within ten minutes of the first incision, a beautiful baby girl entered the world! It was a very surreal experience. The second surgery was an extensive hysterectomy and bladder lift. As I said, I’ll just go ahead and spare you those details. I do have a whole newfound respect for women that have undergone a vaginal hysterectomy…
Friday night was spent here at “Motel 6.” Having eaten enough bologna and cheese sandwiches to turn into a loaf of processed meat, I decided that I wanted a good home-cooked meal. So, I fried up a mess of chicken, Ryan fixed the sides, and Megan basked in the glory of what was her first homemade southern fried chicken! That was the pinnacle of our evening. We rounded out the night watching Shark Week, playing a few adult beverage games, and heading to bed fairly early. We certainly know how to live life on the edge here on the “res!”
Saturday was a very fun-filled day. We woke up early, and went on a daytrip to Rapid City (about 3 hours west of here). One of the little unofficial traditions that Ryan, our friends, and I have developed is eating at a locally owned microbrewery wherever we travel. While we were driving west on I-90, we saw a sign for the Firehouse Brewing Co. in downtown Rapid; so naturally, we had to make our lunch stop there. Downtown Rapid City was very cool – it reminded me a lot of the riverfront area in Paducah, KY. After chowing down on a bison burger (I’ve grown to really like bison meat!), we headed south to Keystone to see Mount Rushmore. Even though I’d been there before, Mount Rushmore still strikes me as one of the most beautiful places in the world, and by far uniquely “American.” After a short hike around the base of the Mount, we departed for a drive through the Black Hills. We drove past the Crazy Horse Mountain and through Custer State Park.
We arrived back in Rosebud around 7:00 that evening, and immediately left for a little Rosebud shenanigans! One of the pharmacists we’ve been working with was having a cookout, so he invited us along. It was really fun to really get to know the people we’ve been working with and their spouses. It is evident that one must develop a certain sense of gallows humor to live here for a prolonged period of time. One of the pharmacist’s wife sat down with us, and quickly struck up a very lively conversation. As it turns out, she grew up in Illinois, too, so we quickly bonded. We were introduced to many different facets of reservation life, including wandering bison, res dogs, and our favorite, the phrase “res-tastic.” My side literally hurt from laughing so hard throughout the whole night.
Today was an interesting day, because we got to experience the native culture firsthand. After church and lunch, we went out to a secluded spot in the woods to observe a Lakota Sundance ceremony. I’m unsure of all of the meanings behind a Sundance, but it is essentially to make sacrifices to the Creator. The Sundance ceremony follows very stringent guidelines, such as women must wear long skirts, and typically you must be invited to attend. The Crow Dog family held this Sundance, and it was particularly large. I don’t think too many people realizedwe were there uninvited. The dance is part of a several day ritual that involves dancing, praying, fasting, and offerings of flesh. Yes, I did say flesh. The dancers are piercedthrough the chest with either a sharpened stick or bison bone, and are tied to the Tree of Life in the center of the dance grounds. At the end of one of the rounds, the dancers run away from the tree, tearing the skin, and thus making a flesh offering. When we arrived to the dance, the flesh offerings had already been given. We still got to see a water ceremony dance, though, which was very interesting.
As we were leaving the ceremonial grounds, someone questioned our presence there, which segues into my ultimate feelings from this week – the feeling of being unwanted. As I’ve begun to grow accustomed to life on the res, I can’t help but feel the overwhelming sense of being out of place here. I’ve been through the ghettos of St. Louis, the busy streets of New York, dark alleys in Philadelphia, the hedonistic streets of New Orleans, and the African bush, and never have I ever maintained such a sense of being out of place. Twice we’ve had our picture taken by locals, patients become extremely frustrated when I don’t understand them mumbling a last name like “Never Misses a Shot,” and today, we saw a bumper sticker reading, “Wasichu: The Other White Meat.”
The perplexity of this culture reminds me of the classic novel/film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and it is perhaps ironic that I relate very strongly to the only Indian character in the story, Chief Bromden. Throughout the story, Chief Bromden, a patient in a psychiatric hospital, is thought to be dumb and deaf. At one point, though, it is learned that he has been pulling off a farce throughout the whole film/novel. The main character, Randle MacMurphy (Jack Nichelson), offers the Chief a piece of gum, to which he replies, “Thank you. Mmm…Juicy Fruit.” It is at that point that MacMurphy realizes that the Chief has the entire hospital staff hoodwinked. He was simply misunderstood by the staff. It is my hope and prayer that by the end of this rotation, the community and I have that “Juicy Fruit” moment, when we both realize that there are more ties that bind than separate. I suppose I should wrap this story up for now. Next week is bound to be much more entertaining, as Ryan and I will be traveling to Sturgis, SD, for the annual Sturgis Bike Week Rally! I’m sure I won’t stand out at all there, either! (I hope you read that with an intonation of sarcasm!)
As an addendum to what I already wrote, when I finished writing this, a double rainbow painted the sky over Rosebud. I think that's definitely a sign of things looking up!
Until next time!
Written on Sunday, 31 July 2011
Dedicated to the men, women, and children of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate
Good day, blog fans! It’s been a while since I last recounted a tale of my adventures, or probably better stated, my misadventures. Of late, I’ve attained a knack for getting myself into seemingly sticky situations, and my current situation would probably fall into that category by most able-minded people’s perspectives. I don’t know if my brain is wired differently than normal society, or perhaps if I was poorly oxygenated in utero, but I’ve found that by getting into said situations, I grow as a person within, and more importantly, I grow as a citizen of the world. (The above photo is of the Rosebud Indian Comprehensive Health Services Hospital where we are practicing.)
The last time I travelled to an outside place to practice pharmacy was in Africa. The plight of the poor, starving, and malnourished tore at my heartstrings. I felt as though I had truly discovered what it meant to be “poor.” My societal blinders have once again been removed; I never expected them to be removed in my own back yard, though. Fate has brought me over a thousand miles from home, to a land where United States statistics are inverted. Today I sit in a land where dreams simply don’t come to fruition, but rather, there was never anything to catalyze their formation in the first place. I write to you from a land where the employment statistics don’t read “10% unemployed,” but instead “10% employed,” because frankly, the land supports but one industry: ranching – an industry dominated by white settlers. Tonight I will sleep in a land where babies are born into a vicious cycle of poverty, alcoholism, abuse, and neglect, with no seemingly reasonable way out. This is the reality that our government designated as “protected” tribal lands many years ago. This is the reality of life on an American Indian reservation. (FYI, I use the term “Indian” after being told, “Saying Native American makes you sound like a politically correct, stuffy white person. Even the Indians refer to themselves as Indians!”)
Perhaps I should back up a bit before I plunge into the plight of the Rosebud Sioux reservation. After all, what would one of my pieces be without an inkling of levity? Our story began back in the Fall of 2010, when my classmates and I were informed of special pharmacy rotations that would take us to very unique practice sites. Having been to the Black Hills before, I immediately decided I wanted to do a rotation with the Indian Health Service on the Rosebud Sioux reservation. After being slated a rotation here from our lottery, the adventures to come sat idly in the back of my mind until last Saturday, when my friend, Ryan, and I departed Edwardsville for an adventure in the American West. If it were humanly possible to write about the excitement and interesting sites along our journey through Kansas and Nebraska, I would, but the key word to that statement is “humanly.” (The photo to the left is of a house in Rosebud. Whether or not it is abandoned is still a mystery to me.)
We crossed the South Dakota/Nebraska border around 11:00 p.m. As we approached the tiny town of Rosebud, we were greeted with a sign riddled with graffiti: “Welcome to the Land of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate – The Burnt Thigh Nation.” We approached the hospital, where we would be given access to our living quarters. We walked into a small emergency room to discover a dozen or more people patiently waiting for care from the immensely understaffed ER. We were finally given the OK to go to our home for the next five weeks, a six-bedroom dormitory known as “Motel 6”. As we unloaded, passersby stopped on the road to watch as a new pair of outsiders prepared for life on the “res.” The dorm is one of the nicer housing structures in Rosebud, which doesn’t really saya lot. It bears the resemblance of an old mental institution on the inside, and the furniture is basically an overflow of things the hospital no longer needed. We quickly stashed our things away, and then retired for the night on old hospital beds.
The next morning, we decided to try out the local Catholic church just down the road. We arrived about ten minutes before mass was scheduled to begin. We stood outside the building with two older Indian men for several minutes, until they informed us that the priest sometimes didn’t make it for mass. We drove to the nearest “big” community, which also had the nearest United Methodist congregation – forty-five minutes away! After the service, we stopped for lunch, and then returned to Rosebud for the day. We were yet to receive keys to Motel 6, so we stopped by the ER again. The groundskeeper, Robert, informed us that he would be by sometime that afternoon. In the meantime, the security officers let us back into the dorm. Robert arrived late in the afternoon, and was quite a talker! After filling out the necessary paper work, Robert decided he’d just sit a spill and chat with us. After an hour or so, he finally departed, but not without one piece of advice: “Hey, man, you should probably move your car up closer to your bedroom window. The kids are out of school, you know, and they like to throw rocks through visitors’ windows! Move it up closer so you can hear them, you know.” “Great,” I thought. That evening, our dorm-mate, Megan, a medical student from the University of Minnesota, arrived back to Motel 6 from a camping excursion. After fixing one of my typical suppers – PB&J, bologna and cheese, Ramen noodles, Spam concoctions, etc. – we went to bed pretty early. After all, we had a job to do the following day.
Rosebud is a very small town, the population of which I do not know. The sole highway is filled with potholes and without lines to guide you, the housing here is pathetic, and the only source of daily living and social needs exists at the “All-Stop” gas station. We have found ways to bide our time away when we’re not working. Driving to the nearest grocery store (15 miles away), bike riding (up horribly steep hills), reading, playing cards and weekend get-away adventures – these have kept us, or at least my mind, occupied! After work on Friday, Ryan and I drove to the nearest decent restaurant – approximately twenty minutes away. It was nice having a good, hot meal! Two amusing things came of this little trip. The first was that we discovered the area’s “watering hole,” which was literally a large, walk-in refrigerator with a drive-thru window. As we were about to leave the restaurant, I noticed that an Indian had spotted us, and quickly snapped a picture of us with his cell phone…not that we didn’t already feel out of place. Yesterday, Ryan, Megan, and I drove to the Badlands National Park for hiking and site seeing. After a day in the Badlands, we were very dirty, wreaked of sweat, and were somewhat tired. But that didn’t deter us from taking in the world-famous Wall Drug Store down the road. Without a doubt, Wall Drug takes the cake for America’s most hokey roadside attraction (a.k.a., tourist trap). I still love it, though! After visiting the pharmacy museum, enjoying abison burger, and some homemade ice cream, we returned to Rosebud for a night of shooting the breeze. The past week has been a blast, despite the living conditions here. There is still, however, the reality of life on the reservation that weighs on the back of my mind. (The photo above to the right is of Ryan, Megan, and me in front of the Pinnacles at the Badlands National Park. The photo to the left is at Wall Drug in Wall, SD.)
I must say, I thoroughly enjoy working at the Indian Health Service hospital. It is so very hard to find dedicated health care providers in this area, so the knowledge and expertise of pharmacists is really utilized to its fullest. The staff members have embraced us as one of their own, and are generally fun to work with. Practicing in this patient population has proven very interesting. A vast majority of the patients I’ve seen have had very similar medication orders: thiamine and folic acid for alcohol withdrawal; phenytoin for withdrawal seizure prophylaxis; insulin, metformin, glyburide, etc. for diabetes; and more blood pressure medicines than seems humanly possible. The overall health of the Rosebud Sioux tribe is poor, if not “extremely” poor. One of the leading causes of death here, falling, is an immediate result of the rampant alcoholism. Across America, the leading cause of death in young adults – my age group – is automobile accidents. Here it is suicide. Twenty-somethings with congestive heart failure, drug and alcohol abuse in all age groups, tuberculosis and other horrible infectious diseases, and a plague of metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, etc.)…These are all the commonplace occurrences here.
Life here is without a doubt very strenuous for the Lakota. I had always heard stories about the horrible conditions on the American Indian reservations. Still, until I experienced this place firsthand, I think my mind would still refuse to believe that such a desolate place exists in the land of the free. I have come to learn that the people here are a result of a forced living situation many years ago – what some would consider a prisoner of war or internment camp. These people didn’t choose to leave their homes for a barren wasteland with no promise of a future just for the hell of it. They were forced here by the Manifest Destiny mentality of wasichu – the word used to describe white men or non-Indians, and which translates to “the one who takes the good meat.” Today, what remains of the Lakota nation are the scattered and broken promises and dreams of generations gone by. Many people are born into this wasteland, and they simply die here never knowing what exists beyond poverty and reliance on the government for their provisions. I have included a link Megan sent me to from a “TED” speaker that has worked with the Lakota for the past several years. Although his opinions may seem a bit extreme at times, I believe you will still find his words as eye-opening as I did.
Until next time,
Written on 11 June 2011
Good day, blog fans! It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog, so all week long I’ve been trying to think of a good topic. Life has been great to me since I last wrote, but I haven’t been particularly inspired by anything to write a devotion, and I hadn’t had any of the quintessential “Cody” moments that give rise to my stories. That is, I hadn’t had any of those moments until today. So, once again I will delve into my inner raconteur to tell the tale of my most absurdly haphazard bike ride…
It was about two months ago when a Facebook ad popped up advertising a charity bike ride being held in St. Louis to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis. Being in health care, I felt that this was a charity I could easily relate to, and it is certainly a worthy cause. I recruited my riding buddy, Ryan, and we both signed up for a metric century ride on June 17. In the cycling world, metric century translates to 100 kilometers (62.1 miles). The particular ride we are going on is 66 miles, though. Not an easy feat for a fairly new cyclist, but still a challenge worth tackling. I’ve ridden my bike pretty religiously since signing up for this ride. Today is the Saturday before the ride, so I suggested to Ryan that we take a fairly long ride to gauge our preparedness for next weekend. I also suggested that we take a different route from what we’re accustomed to.
A friend came into town last night, and we naturally stayed out into the wee hours of the morning as we often do when we paint the town. I awoke this morning with a stiff neck and a little groggy from a lack of sleep (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it). Ryan insisted on riding earlier in the day so he could make it to Saturday Mass. I began to muster my energy in preparation for a day in the hot sun. I pre-hydrated, stretched, and took a long, hot shower to loosen my muscles. I threw on my jersey, loaded the blue beast onto my bike rack, and headed off to pick up Ryan.
We laughed at the stories from the night before as we drove to the Lewis and Clark memorial tower outside Hartford, Illinois. The tower sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and is a trailhead for the Confluence Trail, which would lead us all the way into St. Louis. We began our journey on what was a seemingly standard 32 mile trip. As we turned toward the river front we passed a group of three fellow cyclists. “There’s loose gravel up ahead,” a very cute brunette in the group warned us.
We came to the spot she mentioned. We expected to see a patch of loose gravel over the trail as a makeshift repair. Instead, we discovered that the trail was an endless sea of gravel stretching for miles along the banks of the Mississippi. “Ah, hell!” I exclaimed as the tiny width of my road tires hit the gravel and began to swerve. A torrent of blasphemy and obscenities ejaculated from Ryan’s mouth as he struggled to maintain his balance on the treacherous road. About four or five miles later, we spotted what looked like solid ground ahead of us. Instead, we discovered that it was a hellacious trick of the devil and Mother Nature – the trail, then a stretch of dirt road, had been transformed into a mud bog by floods and rain. As I traversed the trail, my tires cut deep into the mucky silt and kicked mud and rocks all over me. I made it through the bog to discover that Ryan was nowhere near me. I looked back and saw him walking his bike through the filth. His wheels had become so caked in mud that they refused to turn. To give you some background on Ryan, I weigh over a hundred pounds more than he does. How he managed to sink farther in that muck has had physicists and me puzzled all day. He asked to borrow my bike tool to unclog his wheels, and after fighting the mud clot for a few minutes finally managed to dislodge his tire.
We proceeded toward our first major landmark, the McKinley Bridge in St. Louis. We passed through a rather sketchy part of Granite City (okay, most of Granite City is sketchy, but this part was especially shady). We passed through old industrial parks and steel mills that once served as the Titans of a vibrant industrial city. Now, they stood eerily overlooking a city long forgotten, ravaged by cruel economic times. The only good part about riding through Granite City was that we were once again on solid pavement.
As we progressed toward the city, the landscape reiterated that Granite City wasn’t the only community to be gutted by hard times. When we finally crossed the bridge, we took a moment to stop and take in the city skyline. From where we stood, we could see the tall skyscrapers, sporting venues, and the Gateway Arch, all of which contrasted to the neighborhoods north of the bridge – north St. Louis, an area once known as the center of activity for the city, but now known for its desolation, poverty, and violence.
In order to make it back to the trail to Hartford, our journey would have to go through this “rough” part of town. I knew fully well where we were heading, but decided long ago that I not only wanted to see this part of St. Louis, but needed to see it to better understand the struggles of a vast majority of the city. We rode along the banks of the Mississippi. The muddy waters slowly rolled southward as we continued at a quick pace north. As we rounded a corner, I heard the crying of a baby somewhere near the river. I looked to my right to discover a mother comforting her child by their home – an abandoned station wagon left by the riverside. Talk about a site that would break your heart! As we continued, we passed scores of people fishing on the banks of the river, many of whom clearly appeared as though life had dealt them an unfair hand many years ago. Most simply ignored us as we whizzed by them. Some glanced at us with a look of apathy. Others looked at us with disdain.
As the area grew more and more forsaken, we decided to get out of there as quickly as we could (hence the title “Pedal Faster”). Naturally, the faster we pedaled seemed to correlate with increasingly strong winds from the north. We eventually made our way to the old Chain of Rocks Bridge, where historic Route 66 once crossed the Mississippi. We finally felt comfortable enough to stop and rest for a few minutes. We crossed the river back into Illinois, and eventually found ourselves back on the very familiar gravel path. By this time, our legs weren’t quite as spry, and our energy stores were much less than when we first passed through this no-man’s land for cyclists. We drudged on until we say the tall Lewis and Clark tower hovering in the near distance. With a sudden jolt of energy, we pushed toward our goal hard and fast, despite the loose gravel beneath us.
We made it back to my car, grabbed a drink from a nearby vending machine, and made the trip back to Edwardsville. We laughed at our mishaps along the way, cursed our poor planning for the trip, and then just enjoyed the drive back home. I felt a renewed sense of humbleness after our ride. Despite our joking, flowery language, and rough sailing along the way, the greatest thing I took away from today’s ride was the places and people we encountered. The sound of that crying baby has haunted me all evening. It reminded me that at the end of the day, I still have a comfortable place to escape from the midday sun; he or she has an old broken-down station wagon by the river. It reminded me that I have a long, fulfilling and lucrative career ahead of me; his or her future is crapshoot. Today’s ride reminded me that the troubles that I think plague my life pale in comparison to what that innocent child will likely face until his or her dying days. Above all, it reminded me that I should be thankful for everything in my life – my family, friends, job, and even the challenges I face. At the same time, it reminded me to not forget the challenges and hardships others face, and that I have a duty to help those in need.
If you'd like to help me to help others that are in need here in the St. Louis area, please consider donating to my upcoming Metric Century Ride to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis. RMHC helps to provide families of critically ill children a welcoming place to stay near area hospitals. They create a more home-like environment than hotels, and are extremely cheap (somewhere around $5 a day!). To donate, visit: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/codysandusky/pillpedalers.
Written on 02 May 2011
Tonight is an historic moment in American history. After nearly ten years since the 9/11 attacks, the United States military served justice to possibly the most despised man by Americans since the Soviet era. As the news sank in, I realized that I was elated to hear of the death of a fellow human. “What a twisted thought,” I thought to myself. Some fellow Christians reminded me via their Facebook posts that it is a sin to rejoice in the demise of an enemy. I applaud them each for their faith and commitment to what is written, and I wholeheartedly agree. But as for this occasion, I will later have to repent.
My heart cannot stop welling with joy at this news. I watched the President’s speech, read media threads, and considered the sacrifices of every American it took to bring this enemy to justice. To me, this night is not about parties – it’s not about war, enemies, or victories. To me, this night is about what it truly means to be an American. This night serves as a reminder that America owes a debt of gratitude to our military men and women. This night reminds me that I have so many freedoms for which to be thankful that my mind cannot even comprehend them all. This night reminds me that we are a resilient people – a people that will never give up in the pursuit of liberty – a people that will rise up against any adversary, tragedy, disaster, or corruption. This night was a reminder of how much I truly love this country.
It seems of late that America’s best days are behind her – that our economy is crumbling, that our congress is impregnated with scandal and partisan bickering, and that our justice system is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Be that as it may, there is one thing that this country will never lose: its spirit of steadfastness, idealism and freedom. No enemy will ever lay claim to our land. No storms or floods will ever keep us from offering a helping hand to our neighbors and rebuilding our cities. No government corruption can spoil the hearts and minds of the people of this great nation. America’s best days are not behind her. They’re still to come. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a jaded and struggling world, this great country will rise again to new reaches.
To our service people, thank you.
To everyone else, rejoice in this great country that God has given us. God bless you, every America, and the grand ol’ USA!