Honoring a Tribal Healthcare Hero

Who can forget the horrendous blizzard of December 2022 in Rosebud? Amidst huge drifts and a freezing wind chill, the snowplow broke and water pipes froze, women went into labor and dialysis patients were stuck without treatment. A12-year-old boy died of an asthma attack because EMS couldn’t reach him in time. Our team labored day and night as the storm claimed lives on the Rosebud reservation and surrounding area.

But there’s one story you might not have heard -the story of Rosebud Sioux Tribe Police Officer Joshua Marti, whose bravery and innovative thinking single-handedly saved the life of a Rosebud patient with diabetes.

During the afternoon of Dec. 15, a concerned neighbor found the patient alone in his home, confused and appearing quite ill. But because of the snow, EMS could not reach the diabetic patient. Our Rosebud team spoke directly with EMS dispatch who attempted to marshal snow plows to assist EMS in getting to the scene. But as the day ground on, the neighbor’s hourly updates made it clear the patient was decompensating. The sun began to set and our team begged EMS services to do what they could, aware the patient would likely die if no one could reach him soon.

Enter Officer Joshua Marti, who drove his police cruiser behind a plow as far as they could go. He then walked in freezing temperatures through snow drifts for a considerable distance to reach the house. Forced to improvise without an ambulance, Officer Marti found a sleeping bag in the house, placed the patient in it, and dragged the patient through the snow to his police cruiser. The patient arrived to the ER experiencing severe life-threatening acidosis, mildly hypothermic, with an expected pH of 6.8, and a blood sugar of 1200. And once again, our hardworking ER team was able to save him!

Dr. Barrows was deeply impressed with the heroic actions of Officer Marti. In June of this year, he wrote a letter to Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement, commending Officer Marti for his bravery. The result: yesterday, Officer Marti was honored by federal law enforcement and his tribe. The EMS dispatcher, other law enforcement officers, and the Rosebud Tribe president shared their stories of the storm and their experiences with Officer Marti’s selflessness. Then BIA Law Enforcement awarded Officer Marti both a Life Saving Award and the Medal of Valor for saving a life while risking his own – with the awards presented by Dr. Barrows! The Medal of Valor is the second highest award (just behind the Medal of Honor) for law enforcement. As a Tribal spiritual leader sang songs in Lakota, Officer Marti was named a warrior of the tribe and earned a feather. The tribe gifted him a star quilt.

Congratulations to Officer Marti, a true healthcare hero – and thank you again to our Rosebud ER team who have shown time and again that they will show up in the worst of conditions to care for our patients.

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