Yazzie, 31, is one of eight women helping run the health clinic in Navajo Mountain, a chapter of the Navajo Nation that straddles the border of Arizona and Utah. Photography by Sharon Chischilly for Elemental

How a Navajo Nation Health Worker is Treating America’s Worst Covid-19 Outbreak

Roxanna Yazzie works long hours to keep her community safe from Covid-19

When she gets in, Yazzie puts on her PPE: N95 mask, face shield, gown, and gloves. Even though Covid-19 cases have gone down since the start of the pandemic, Yazzie and her coworkers, Registered Nurse Modessa Hancock (left) and Medical assistant Sonya Sloan (right) still treat every patient like they might have it.
Every morning, Yazzie prepares breakfast for her husband, Alex Gishie Jr. and their three school-aged kids, Dwayne Gishie, Leon Gishie, and Arlene Gishie. She gets her kids ready for their online classes before leaving for work.
Working at a small clinic means that each health care worker often takes on many different roles. Here, Yazzie works with her co-worker, radiology technician Harold Todachinnie to perform an x-ray procedure on a patient. Throughout the day, Yazzie says patients are coming to the clinic for more routine needs: pain and body aches, diabetes, or pediatric check-ups.

“It’s frustrating when you see other people on the news complaining about the little stuff. We’re out here on the reservation making it work.”

For the rest of the day, Yazzie continues with her assortment of tasks, running between different parts of the clinic and helping with phone calls, patient intakes, taking vitals, and running routine blood tests. They used to be able to see more patients but are now limited to at most eight per day.
When she gets home, her kids are excited to see her, but she has to stop them from touching her the second she walks in. Despite the challenges of her work, and constantly being away from her kids, she’s proud to serve her community.
Yazzie says some of the biggest challenges of dealing with Covid-19 in Navajo Mountain are not providing care at the clinic and her community, but getting access to food and water that would allow her community to quarantine safely. Earlier in the pandemic, Yazzie and her team would check on community members who were recovering from Covid-19, deliver food to elders, and make house calls to people who didn’t have access to a car.

Journalist based in Seattle. wudanyan.com

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