In the Spirit of Medicine

"In the Spirit of Medicine" is a new feature on Northland Morning.

Dr. Arne Vainio is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and a family practice doctor on the Fond Du Lac reservation in Cloquet.

His essays on life, work, medicine and spirit are published in "News From Indian Country," and you can find the link to his stories and more on our website at KUMD.org.

In the Spirit of Medicine on KUMD is made possible by University of Minnesota Medical School- Duluth CampusAmpers, and the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

©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.

Arne Vainio

In the Spirit of Medicine features the essays of Dr. Arne Vainio, an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and a family practice doctor on the Fond Du Lac reservation in Cloquet.

This episode was originally aired May 28, 2018.

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.

Association of American Indian Physicians/Facebook

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.

Arne Vainio

  “A great sickness has been visited upon us as human beings. This happened to us as Native people a long time ago and it devastated us and killed us by the millions. It took our elders and our babies alike and there was nothing we could do.

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. 

©Jesse Vainio. Courtesy Arne Vainio

You have too much to offer to let this gift go. This gift is a blessing, but it can also be a burden and a curse. When Jake plays the piano, there’s something in there that makes me cry. Every single time. Your drawings and your artwork have that same power. When you create something, it shows others what is inside you. But more importantly, it shows them what is inside them.

 

Arne Vainio

He turned on the amplifier and I expected to hear the twangy sounds of the 1950’s. Poodle skirts and ducktail haircuts were in my mind, but what came out of the guitar was the blues.  Not just any blues, but the heart-wrenching blues from a life that didn’t deliver what was expected. I could hear his anguish and the guitar moaning as he was saying goodbye to an old friend who was moving on and leaving him behind.

 

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