The Begay Family v Covid-19

"I wish he would have retired... I wish he would have retired." - Alice


On Thursday around noon Ernest was working at his job at the transportation depot at the Kayenta school district. He was coughing and not feeling well; he felt so weak he called his supervisor and said he needed to go home. They told him to shut down the transportation depot and get himself tested for Covid-19 because they all had it. His boss a week earlier, and others at his work, had already begun showing symptoms.

The next day him and his son got tested and both came back positive. He decided it would be best to isolate himself at a separate apartment in town. His daughter, Krissie, would go from home to the apartment and back delivering food and supplies so her dad could stay away from as many people as possible. But it was too late, whether they got it earlier or from this back and forth, others at the home were infected.

“I only have three bedrooms; two grandkids, two kids, husband, and me.” Alice told us after I asked about their home. She knew the risk of the virus but her kids were sick, she couldn’t just put them in a room and slide food under the door to them. So she took care of them, exposing herself to the virus which led to her own lengthy fight against it.

On March 28th Krissie went to the ER at IHS, Indian Health Services, for a CT scan because she was coughing and not feeling well. They told her she has Covid-19 and her lungs were filled with liquid, pneumonia, and they wanted to fly her out but there were no beds available at any hospitals near, so they sent her home. She went to stay with her dad so they could try and take care of each other. Every four hours they had to take 1000ml of Tylenol, they would go back and forth helping each other if the other was feeling too weak.

March 30th Krissie went back to the ER again and a few hours later they flew her to Phoenix Banner to be placed in the ICU. The next day while in the hospital she asked about her family and found out they weren’t doing well. “It’s really hard not knowing how your parents are doing, how your brother is doing, where are my niece and nephew, are they being taken care of, are they eating.” Krissie said. The next day she was told her family was being flown in and her dad was already on a ventilator; two days later she also found out that her brother was on the ventilator.

Krissie fought to not be put on the ventilator so she could go home sooner to check on her younger family who were not sent to the hospital. She was able to return home on April 10th and while still struggling with breathing problems started cleaning the house to have it ready for her family’s return. It would be seven more days until Alice was released from the hospital on April 17th.

Krissie’s brother had a harder time and was kept until April 24th where he was on the ventilator for almost the entirety of that time. When on the ventilator they give a medicine that relaxes the patient so it can go down their throat to help them breath; however being on the ventilator that long can have repercussions of your muscles start deteriorating. The brother became temporarily paralyzed and spent the next couple of weeks learning how to walk again.

All of the family members who were flown out were finally back home except one, Ernest. He was still in the hospital fighting for his life in what was looking more bleak by the day. Oxygen complications led to acid in his bloodstream so they tried dialysis but his kidney, liver, and gallbladder were all already shutting down.

“He got his second covid in the hospital, and he got pneumonia, he is in the ICU you prevent those sort of things, how did he get it? He's going through it all again and they don't know why so they tried to treat him again.” They wanted to do more treatment but then they found out his eyes couldn’t open themselves and he wasn’t having brain activity and that’s when the decision was made. They would take him off of oxygen and if his heart kept going they would put him back on.

May 11th Ernest passed away immediately after being taken off oxygen.


“Me and my husband at certain year in our marriage we have a list of to do for the whole year, this is our priorities, we don't live day after day, so it was pretty hard for me to think that way.” Alice told me. “So I say ok next year I'm gonna do this and that and build this, that's how we were, me and my husband, we had a list.. we had things to do.”

“I wish he would have retired... I wish he would have retired. I know it's only been four months, I don't know what to do, I'm scared. My grandson cries in the night because that is his role model. He starts carrying all these tools around, 'My grandpa uses this tool for this one, I don't want nobody taking it.'”

“I hope that he gets justice, I think if he gets that I can try to go on and try to make a couple more steps, try to do what we usually do, make another list. Maybe make some more of this picnic table.”