The conference room at Blackfeet Community Hospital slowly filled with doctors, nurses and assorted hospital staff members, as well as Chief Earl Old Person, Kenny Old Person and Paul Old Chief – the Rawhide Singers. Dr. Ernest Gray waited patiently as folks came in, and all the while Jay Dusty Bull, decked out in a beautiful ribbon shirt, greeted them, along with his family.
Dr. Gray began by observing the fact that it seems many times people focus on the negative things they believe about IHS, but he noted the many highly qualified and skilled people who work there and how their stories are seldom told. Then he introduced Jay Dusty Bull, a person world renowned for his traditional singing and a man of many accomplishments.
Jay himself spoke about the morning of March 14, 2018, when he awoke feeling strange. His family brought him to Blackfeet Community Hospital, and at first they thought he wasn’t a candidate for a heart attack since his genetics didn’t indicate that likelihood. “They thought I was too young for those types of issues,” Dusty Bull said, being 33 at the time. But in fact, he was experiencing a heart attack known as a widowmaker, an informal term for a heart attack that involves 100 percent blockage in the left anterior descending artery. Only around five percent of its victims survive, and, according to Dusty Bull, the last two people who experienced widowmakers at IHS died.
He noted the surgeon, Dr. Charles McMullin, was busy with other patients, but still managed to get his situation under control, saving his life. Not entirely recovered, Dusty Bull says he has no feeling in his right arm but can move it around.
Jay was joined by his mother, Anna Lee Pemberton; sister Rochelle Gervais; and his father and his wife, Jack and Gayle Monroe, in honoring those involved with his recovery. They gave Pendleton blankets to Dr. McMullin, Physician’s Assistant Jade Whitsell, Stacey Salois RN, Danette Harwood CNA, Helen Morris MSA and Ron Augare, Security. Then the Rawhide Singers presented an Honor Song and the Flag Song for everyone in attendance.
“I want to give thanks to Earl Old Person and everybody who prayed for me, and the community,” Jay said. “We never tell them thank you enough. This is my second chance, and I’m living life to the fullest, believe me!”