Thursday, 12 October 2017

In memory of Jessie Medina Hernandez, a woman who resisted……in your face Columbus!

In memory of Jessie Medina Hernandez, a woman who resisted……in your face Columbus!


*Note: Permission has been given by all of Jessie’s surviving children to post this blog online.


When I think of Columbus day, or shall I now say Indigenous People’s Day, many images come to mind of strong proud warriors fighting the good fight to resist colonization and the powers that feel the need to build empire across the precious earth we call our mother. For this blog post I want to write about my true mother. The one human being who birthed me from her womb and fought hard and strong to keep her family together, amidst living among a chaotic system of imperialistic vampires.

My mother Jessie was admitted to Clovis Community Medical Center on August 24th, 2017. She entered the health care facility in hopes to receive the BEST care this country can provide. She did not come out alive. Her death was noted at 4:06am of September 9th 2017, she spent a total of 17 days receiving her final opportunities to access care before moving on to the spirit world. I want to talk about Jessie’s death because it is very important and I must warn you it will become political, but first. How did she live and who was she other than my mom?


Well my mother Jessie was born in the 3rd of July in Manteca California. Her parents were both migrant farm workers. Jessie herself was a farm worker for many years and once had special recognition thorough CSU Fresno’s History Department which hosted an oral history project about her life as a farm worker. 
Jessie's early years as a farm worker was showcased at CSU Fresno
 Like many Indigenous people of this land, Jessie had dreams to attain a good life, working wage, home, and live a long healthy life. She believed in the American Dream. 

Her fate at the age of 67 is one that sadly for all of us ends in death, however she gave life a total of 5 times which included me and my siblings. Jessie held strong to the spirit of family and friends. In her time as a mother, she maintained a sometimes happy but stable home for all her kids. In fact she always opened her home to many people in need.  

She did her best to support each of her children to become healthy vibrant adults, which included grandchildren and great grandchildren. Most of all she loved dearly her nieces and nephews, always willing to be of support to them too. Lastly, there were other folks that my mother picked up along the way and ALWAYS treated them as her own children.  You could say that Jessie had a very sacred gift when it came to love, for it was unconditional.


And since this blog is about explaining how my mom resisted, a fondest memory that comes to mind is when I was in college. For anyone who knows my past, I was sick and tired of the CSU system continuously raising student tuition in order for me to get a college education. An education that was promised to so many in the past yet for some reason not as much now that CSUs are more populated with Indigenous people from across the world.


I was part of a student movement that had planned to take over the Fresno State library to conduct a 24 hour occupation and risk being arrested in order to make a final statement to the state legislature, our elected officials that education is a right. One night I came home to tell my mom and my grandma was sitting next to her. I told my mom that the plan was to get the State to fund the CSU and create enough momentum that a moratorium can be placed for 5 years to stop the fee increase. Eventually our efforts worked, and that is not to say that it was our sole action, but the collective action of many people across California. Jessie was one of those persons who made a difference. I remember my mom saying she would be willing to stand at the entrance of the library as a parent of a student who demands educational investment since she is a taxpayer and worked hard in this country. My grandmother even said she will be there too! The day we took over the Fresno State Library ( my mom was one of the first parents on the scene, and one of the last to sit outside amidst some rain too!  Click HERE to see a cute and short clip on Jessie standing as a human barricade at the Fresno State Library.If link is broken go to


That day is when I saw my mother stand up and resist. Not for her son or a few students but for all those young people who strive for higher education. On this so called Columbus day, I want to thank you Jessie Medina Hernandez for being the resistance and for the memories you instilled in me and my other siblings. Thanks for not giving up and leaving us in times of struggle. I will see you when my time comes, but for now I promise to keep up the fight for all our people and those yet to be born. I hope to make you proud so that my spirit can meet you in the heavens without shame! 


A disaster more important than Harvey and Irma combined? 

It has always struck me as sickening that in this country, we have a few elite families that pretty much govern us and make major decisions that affect our lives. One of those decisions that are constantly made for us is how we get access to health care. Now if you feel disrespected by what I’m about to say I could care less. But if you are willing to read on and digest what I think is the worst hurricane that has hit our country time and time again, then continue reading. This past summer many folks were in awe about how both hurricane Harvey and Irma was impacting so many people, and rightfully so. And then there is our stupid president and politicians. A hurricane can hit in one sweeping moment, and kill a small handful of people in its path and every major congressman and senator in Washington DC cares so much about the pain it will bring even going as far as passing a budget for relief ( That’s wonderful. Now stop and think about it for a minute……what about CANCER? 

When I think of a hurricane and all the attention it gets, hell even gun control and terrorism which only kills small handfuls of people (NO disrespect to any one who’s life was lost) I think of cancer. Losing my mom to cancer is just one gust of wind among the many other gusts that exist in the gigantic storm of people who suffer and die to cancer all because our system is broken. Good healthcare I argue for many like my mother is inaccessible at some levels. And let’s remember that cancer is proven to be a bodily response on many instances, to the way the human DNA tries to resist exposure to toxic chemicals. Cancer causing pathogens are proven to exist in many products we consume or are exposed to on a regular basis. How do these cancer causing toxic products get to us? Well because our politicians allow it to happen, such as allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to be underfunded or dismantled, or in a case like the Dakota Access Pipeline, Flint Michigan water crisis etc., corporations are allowed to get away with creating the largest “hurricane” of deaths due to exposure to cancer causing agents.  Cancer takes the lives of thousands of people on an annual basis, yet doesn’t get the sweeping attention the way a normal “hurricane” does.


I cannot stop but think about what I feel was horrible health care offered to my mother in her last few days before her death and possible throughout the duration of her treatment. In fact my mother was very alert and could think and respond on a highly intelligent level in the last moments before her death, yet medical reports I retrieved from the hospital seemed to label her as mentally disoriented. For example the palliative care team on my mother Jessie’s case didn’t seem to discuss with my mother what they felt was best care for her. They spoke to me and my sister in what seemed to be concern for her (Jessie’s) choice for continued care. The manner in which they spoke was one that questioned whether we felt the choices she is making or made are in her best interest, giving the feeling that they wanted her to hurry up and die. The palliative team staff guaranteed they would talk to my mother alone and let her know they wanted to have a family meeting to discuss what was going to be her choice of care amidst failing health. This didn’t seem to be the case and I think there was a frightful scare to my mother’s dignity. In other words, when Jessie saw all of us children walking into her room with the palliative care team, she seemed scared and afraid, looking directly at me waving her hand in a motion that spoke to say “What the hell is going on here, why are all of you coming in here like this?”   At that moment I realized that the palliative care team must have not talked to my mother to inform her we were all going into her room. Maybe to save time, but they seemingly took shortcuts which made me think that my mom must have felt that her children were about to betray her and come in all together and say “Hey we are pulling the plug on you!”


Jessie's written messages - very legible to her family members
Jessie was incapable of talking because she had a breathing tube placed inside her, yet somehow the nurses, doctors and palliative care team caring for her seemed to treat her as second class. This can be proven in another instance, because after my mother was restrained and given a breathing tube, my first thoughts was that she should have some type of chart with pictures and the alphabet to communicate. Nothing was offered. My sister and I went on to find a way to communicate with our mother Jessie right away.

Using a handwritten alphabet chart, we played somewhat of a hangman guessing game (show pics) to realize my mother was trying to tell us that she was having a hard time getting air or oxygen. For an entire day we used this self made chart to communicate, and even having Jessie write things down on paper and a day later did a nurse provide a “health care communication board” which my mother then refused to use as a way of letting the care providers know “Thanks but no thanks, we found a way without your help!” 


Why am I writing about all this? Well I want to end this by saying that I don’t personally blame the care providers, but I do blame the hospital CEO’s the elite folks of the health care system, and most importantly our elected officials. Together they should be working to hire, train and improve in having one of the best health care systems in the world. It is up to all of us to be aware of this type of treatment
The card Jessie refused to use
because no one should have to feel shamed, confused or belittled while lying on their death bed, in the way I feel my mother Jessie was made to feel. I cannot fathom what her feedback and questionnaire form would look like should she come back from the dead and talk about her experience receiving care up to her last breath. Knowing who she was, I’m sure she would do as she had done for many years, put up a good fight, while still holding love in her heart, all while standing at the door demanding this type of treatment stop. If you have read up to this point, remember, health care is a right and it is “we as a people” of this nation who should determine how we are to be treated and have our tax dollars spent. Not the controlling few. 



Are healthcare professionals trained for patients to die sooner than later?


To end this blog post I want to finish with a political statement about Jessie’s death. About a week prior to my mother’s death, my mother filled out an advanced directive. My sister Felicia (Fish) and I were placed as the primary and secondary health care agents to help my mother Jessie make medical decisions. (show pic) Early on, my sister Fish and I agreed we would stick to what our mother wanted….PERIOD!
Copy of our advanced directive

When the time came, we felt bombarded by nurses, doctors and the palliative care team in a manner that seemed to undermine the care my mother wanted. In fact the advanced directive that identified my sister and I was not in her file, for some reason they had an old copy from 2014. It boggled our minds that we had to tell them to look for updated information…, a poor wee little family against a humongous hospital team with tons of resources. And we think it’s just about that. There seemed to be so much conversation around trying to get my mother to not ask for more care such as dialysis. It all felt like the bottom line was the factor which made the health care professionals at the hospital seemingly behave in such a manner. The cost to keep my mom alive was giving the feeling of disregard. There was even a moment when a doctor and nurse were bombarding my mom with so much details of the what ifs, should he choose to ask for certain type of care. I said “ENOUGH! She is very well capable of hearing and understanding and she doesn’t need all the extra diversion, she has asked for what she wants, she knows the possible outcomes, and that is what she will get, end of story!”  My sister also had to reiterate this in another instance.

Cost for care for Jessie Medina Hernandez

I could be wrong about all this yet in the end the bottom line is all about money, something my mother did not have a lot of yet was being billed for the care she received. My mother Jessie’s riches existed only in her will to give and receive love all while enjoying this beautiful life that those of us still alive are blessed with. Love one another. In the end, my mother Jessie, fought very hard to stay alive and have any and every last breath she could despite the pain and confusion. Her hope for keeping herself alive never faltered.

This Indigenous People’s Day, please remember this Indigenous woman who resisted…….good luck to you and I wish you good health. Try not to end up at Clovis Community Medical Center.