Introduction to the Stortellers
Helen's Story About Communication

Her friend Sally from the basket weaving group at the urban center is going with Helen to her appointment.

Helen gets into Sally's car.

Helen: Good morning Sally. I appreciate you coming with me. But we could use my car.

Sally: Good morning, Dear Sister. No, that old Ford is good for short drives, but we don't want to take it on the freeway all the way to the clinic. How are you feeling today?

Helen: I feel a little nervous. I don't think I really need to go. I think I can ask the Creator to heal me. I think maybe we should go gather more materials for our baskets from the hills outside of town and just come home.

Have you ever felt that way? That you wanted to do just about anything else other than go to your cancer appointment?

1. No, I always wanted to go and find out what was happening

2. No, I didn't want to go, but I always tried to make my appointments

3. Yes, and I tried a few times to make excuses to not go

4. Yes, I usually tried to find something else to do so that I didn't have to go

5. Don't know / not sure

Sally: We can get some more basket materials on our way home if you still feel like you can climb the hills. But, my sister, I need you to be well again. We need to see the doctor.

Helen: I don't know this doctor. He doesn't know me either. How can he help me?

Sally: Well, I don't know. I know that this cancer is a hard disease and that you've got a type that needs western medicine as well as traditional medicine.

Helen: I don't see why. Nothing is as strong as the Creator. If I am meant to be healed, the Creator will heal me.

Sally: The Creator will decide what will happen. But He has also given this doctor knowledge to help you. The urban center got you on Medicaid to help pay for everything. I think this would not have happened if the Creator did not want you to visit the doctor and let him help you.

Helen: Hummm

Sally: Well, Marilu from the Center spent a lot of time filling out the papers for you to be on Medicaid. A lot of others never were approved for Medicaid. This must mean something.

Helen: Hummmm. But maybe the Medicaid should be used to help them and not be wasted on me. Maybe there are children who need the Medicaid more than me? Aren't I taking from them by doing this western medicine?

Sally: No, I don't think so. There are other types of programs for the children. You are important to the Center. Your children also need you even though they aren't living with you. When do Nina and Mathew come home from Boarding School?

Helen: They get out for school break in about two weeks. I really miss them. But the school has been really good for them. They weren't doing well here in the city.

Sally: Have you told them yet about this disease?

Helen: No, I don't want to worry them. Any I am still afraid that if I tell them, they may get this too. I don't want to give it to them.

Sally: Well, I think we should make a list of questions to ask the doctor. Like, can you spread this disease to your children? I don't think so, but think we should ask him.

Helen: Okay, that is a good question; I don't want to ask it, okay?

Sally: [chuckling] Oh, I see, you want me to ask the questions?

Helen: [chuckling too]. Well, I'm not going to do it.

Sally: Hummm. I think maybe we should practice some questions. We've got a long drive. What do you want to know from the doctor?

Helen: Will you come in with me?

Sally: Yes. I will be there the whole time. When I talked to the Native Survivors' Support line the lady told me that I would have to have you fill out some paperwork called HIPAA. This paperwork says that it is okay for me to be with you and to hear you're your private information. You have to sign that for me to be able to be with you. Are you sure you want me to hear everything.

Helen: Oh yes. I don't understand a lot of what they say to me and maybe you can help explain it to me.

Sally: Well, I'll help when I can, but this is all new to me too. But together we'll figure it out.

Helen: Will you ask them the questions then?

Sally: My son printed out a list of the questions and also that part of the website about the "I messages". That Native Advocate (from the phone call) was right. This really seems an odd way to talk to a provider. But she said that providers don't understand the way we ask questions. I practiced saying some of them and they feel odd. But if that is what it takes for you to get better care, then I think we should try it.

Helen: hummm -. I don't know why. The Traditional Healer would understand what I'm saying, why can't a Western healer.

Sally: Well, the Western healer and traditional healers work differently and they talk differently. So since we're going to see the Western healer, we need to practice talking the way he can understand. Like you said, he doesn't know you at all. But you need his help. So what do you want to know?

Helen: Oh - I don't know. Nothing. Just do it and let me come home.

Sally: Okay, get my purse please and pull out the papers in it. That is what my son printed out from the website. Take a look at the questions and see if there are any there that you'd like to know the answer to. Go ahead and circle it.

Helen: Oh, I just don't want to do this.

Sally: I know, but try to circle at least five questions then read them to me, okay? I can't read them because I'm driving.

Helen: (big sigh) [time passes as she reads a few questions then stares out the window]. Finally she turns to Sally and says: okay, I guess I want to know ask the provider if he is going to cut off my breasts.

Sally: Ohhh - (uncomfortable -pause) - Yes, that is a good thing to know. How is the question written out there?

Helen: hummm - it says, "Will you be able to just take the lump out or will you have to take my breasts? Both or only one?"

Sally: Yeah, that's a good question. What other question have you marked?

Helen: "How long will the operation take?" I also circled, "How long will I be in the hospital?"

Sally: Those are good questions. What else?

Helen: "How soon after the surgery before my traditional healer can visit me and help me?"

Sally: Oh yes, these are very good questions.

Helen: you looked at these questions too. Were there some that you think I should ask?

Sally: Well, my son helped me look at some of the information from the website and there was that section on the "I messages" that at first I felt was really strange. But then he and I did one of the exercises and it had a question that I think we need to add. But only if that is okay with you.

Helen: what was it?

Sally: Okay, wait it is on the back of the sheets we printed out. I starts out with something like, "I feel uncomfortable -"

Helen: [turns the sheets over and reads the "I message"]. "I feel uncomfortable when you use big words because I don't understand you. I need you to use smaller words or write them down for me, because I am trying to get healthy again."

Helen: Oh, I couldn't say that. What if he gets mad at me and won't give me good treatment?

Sally: He won't get mad. But if you want I'll say that one so that we both understand -.. Because I don't understand the medical words either. [She smiles]

Helen: [smiles back] Okay, so we'll both sound dumb in there - [giggles].

Sally: [laughing]. No, that doesn't make us sound dumb. We'll sound like we know what we want from him! And besides, if he was trying to understand us, he would sound just as "dumb" - [giggling]

To read more stories about Helen, click on her leaf above or click Here



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