Dr Arne Vainio

Wisconsin Historical Society

Skip Sandman is one of our spiritual leaders and he spoke for the pipe.

Copyright Ivy Vainio. Used with permission.

I have no doubt this sewing machine made face masks over a hundred years ago and my grandmother would have made masks. There was a huge second wave of that pandemic and entire families died in a single day. They didn’t have access to ventilators back then and this machine would have been a life saver. My grandmother saved lives as a young woman and I never knew a thing about it.


Ivy Vainio. Used with permission.

George has always told me seeing a doctor dancing would be healing for everyone and I discovered that meant me as much as anyone else.  

Copyright Ivy Vainio. Used with permission.

At his 70th birthday party, he took me aside and it was like a little ceremony with just me and him in the corner.

“Arne, you need to write. I know you have at least one book in you and maybe more. The only way you’re going to find out is by writing and I want to write the forward to your first book.
He went on, “I’ve been writing all these years and I’m always looking for the next writer among us, Arne. Telling our stories is important and I want to pass something formally to you right now.
“Believe that what you have to say is important. The commas and the punctuation will take care of themselves. You need to write.’”

Ryan Holloway/Unsplash

Florence and her sister were forcefully taken away from her family when she was a little girl and put into a residential school.  She was driven far away from her family, her braids were cut off and she was forbidden to speak her language.  “I was always told before that that I was a beautiful little girl inside and once I was taken away I was told I was stupid and ugly. When I got older I fell in with the wrong lifestyle because I couldn’t go back home and I just wanted someone, anyone to accept me.”

©Ivy Vainio. Used with permission.

She had a Singer treadle sewing machine and I was fascinated by the steady “click-click-click” of the needle going up and down. I watched her rock her foot to thread the bobbin, then slide back the cover to load the bobbin into the shuttle. I was always amazed when the sewing machine picked up the thread and could never figure out how it could get thread to link together on both sides of the fabric.

Forest Simon, via Unsplash

Death has always been patient.  For some it comes after a long and full life with boats and vacations and mortgages and big weddings and handshakes and Christmas cards from bankers. It comes with friendly nods and gentle warnings for driving a few miles above the speed limit.

For others it comes randomly with agony and pain and humiliation for a twenty dollar mistake.

Zoongide’iwin is the Ojibwe word for courage and this is one of our grandfather teachings. Zoongide’iwin means to do what is right when the consequences are unpleasant, to do what is right even when you’re afraid.

This is the time for courage. This is the time to stay strong. The virus is depending on you to bring it to others and we cannot let that happen if we can help it.

Dave Salter/Burst

  It was a beautiful spring day and I was on call. I was able to spend some time on this Saturday morning with Ivy and Jacob and we walked along the sidewalks as the melting snow ran in rivers down the streets. The sun was bright and the sky was a blue that promised nothing but warm days to come.

brut carniollus/Unsplash

  If I had told her she had lung cancer on that Thursday, the diagnosis of “pneumonia” never would have been in quotes. She would have continued to see me as part of her medical team. My education and my abilities never would have come into question. But she would have gone into her Easter weekend with a death sentence hanging over her head and nowhere to turn for answers. She didn’t have many days left, and those few days with her family were important. Knowing her diagnosis two days earlier did not change her outcome.

Ed Leszczynskl/Unsplash

Ojibwe author Jim Northrup took me aside at his seventieth birthday party a couple of years ago and told me it was time for me to write a book.

Association of American Indian Physicians/Center of American Indian and Minority Health

These young doctors spent their entire lives aiming for the stars and have worked tirelessly to fill those seats in the classroom. They have self-selected to be those who want to practice in small communities and on reservations. They have inside them the will and the strength to work within these constraints and overcome the barriers placed in front of them. They are the ones who will care about our homeless, those less fortunate, our unemployed and our veterans.

These will be our doctors.

Ales Krivec/Unsplash

I always consider being a doctor the peak of the mountain in the medical field. It makes a difference where you started from when you’re standing on that peak. Some start from the deepest of valleys and it’s those students who need the most help and the most support. 

Copyright Ivy Vainio. Used with permission.

  Dr. Vainio, am I going to die?

Yes.

And there's nothing you can do?

No.

I'm afraid to die. Should I be?

I don't know, Agnes. I don't know.

Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

  Women are from Venus, men are from Mars. That’s true in personal interactions, but it’s also true when it comes to heart disease. 

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