Eagle Butte dialysis patients evacuated after power fails

Eagle Butte dialysis patients evacuated after power fails

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The power outages and water shortages plaguing most of north central South Dakota made refugees out of 35 kidney dialysis patients from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and their caregivers, stranding them in Rapid City.

Patients who receive dialysis three times a week at Eagle Butte on the reservation were evacuated Friday after snow and wind storms cut power to large sections of north central South Dakota. Most had little or no warning that they were leaving. Some arrived without their medicines, toiletries, money or clothing.

Providing for the needs of patients and caregivers has been a challenge. It’s uncertain when people can return home.

“It’s been hard on everyone,” said Keith Annis, recalling the late evening trip into Rapid City.

A caravan of three vans and several support vehicles left Eagle Butte after dark, driving on icy roads and arrived in Rapid City at about 11 p.m. Friday, Annis said.

Some patients were initially sent to Bismarck, Aberdeen or Pierre, but all were eventually routed to Rapid City.

Wilma and Darrel Straighthead were in Bismarck. They arrived home Saturday night and got up early Sunday morning to drive to Rapid City ahead of the predicted storm. Wilma Straighthead was exhausted from all the driving, but the trip was even harder on Darrel who is on dialysis. “He’s feeling better,” Wilma said, about noon on Monday.

Those going to Pine Ridge were sent with sack lunches provided by the Rapid City Indian Hospital (Sioux San).

“It’s a long ride,” Athea Landreaux of Eagle Butte said of the two-hour drive, which was then followed by four hours of dialysis. Landreaux made the trip Sunday. “It just wears you out. I have to go again tomorrow.”

Landreaux was resting Friday when police officers knocked on her door.

“We only had one candle,” Landreaux said. Working in the dim light, she hastily packed a few items before the officers took her to the hospital where patients gathered.

Landreaux’s husband is home with five grandchildren and only the kitchen stove to provide heat.

When she left home Friday morning, Veda Catches, who lives 42 miles outside of Eagle Butte, thought she was going in for a regular dialysis treatment. Instead, she was sent on to Rapid City to guarantee she would receive the treatments she needs to survive, but she didn’t have extra clothing or her medicines with her.

Annis had time to pack his medicine and few items, but William Rousseau left without his medicine.

Teresa Ducheneaux found herself in Rapid City without any money and none of the snacks she depends upon to keep her diabetes regulated.

“They need lots of snacks to regulate their blood sugar,” said Eileen Briggs, executive director of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Tribal Ventures. Briggs was caught in Rapid City by the storm.

When Briggs learned about the situation Sunday, she stepped in to help coordinate efforts to make people comfortable. It’s hard for people who depend upon a support network to find themselves without that system of care, Briggs said.

She smiled with joy when Cassandra West of Rapid City and a helper walked through the motel’s doors carrying cases of water and snack items. West dipped into her own pocket to help provide necessities.

The Travelodge allowed the group to use its kitchen to store and distribute food.

The Golden Corral and the Millstone restaurants delivered warm meals on Saturday and Sunday evening.

The CornerStone Rescue Mission provided some sack lunches over the weekend.

By Monday, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Relief Charities and Western South Dakota Community Action were working to provide clothing, food, personal hygiene items and other necessities for the displaced people.

Indian Health Services plans to move patients receiving treatment at Pine Ridge to the Prairie Winds Casino today, Briggs said.

Annis was told it would be at least three days after the power and water are restored before the dialysis center in Eagle Butte can accept patients. 

A fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank to collect cash to help the patients with their personal needs until they can return home.

On Monday, the only bank open in Eagle Butte was doing business in cash or check and with paper and pencils, according to Sharon Lee, CRST vice-chairman. Lee said people with debit cards can use them in areas where there is power.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com.

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