A Texas couple recently took a long, familiar road trip to Ada, Okla., for medical treatment. This time, they found hospitality and comfort at the new Chickasaw Nation Chikasha House.
Since a diabetes diagnosis in the early 1990s, Gerald Ward, 75, has made the 428-mile drive from McQueeney, Texas, several times a year to seek medical care.
A Choctaw citizen, Mr. Ward has experienced care at Carl Albert Indian Health Facility and its successor, the new Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. He has always appreciated the compassionate care. On one occasion, he distributed Bedre Chocolates to the hospital staff as a thank you for excellent care during his stay.
Throughout their 32-year marriage, Ruth Ward has been faithfully by her husband's side. She has either spent the night in the hospital or with family members in the Ada area for the duration of their stay.
Now, those family members who have served as Mrs. Ward's hosts, are aging. The Wards did not want to inconvenience them during a week-long trip when Mr. Ward underwent minor surgery last month.
The Wards turned to the Chikasha House, located on the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center campus at 1921 Stonecipher Blvd.
Chikasha House offers a "home away from home" for family members of patients experiencing extended hospital stays.
Gov. Bill Anoatubby and dozens of Chickasaw citizens and community members dedicated the facility in July.
"Caring for our families is always a top priority," Gov. Anoatubby said at the dedication. "The Chikasha House is designed to offer affordable, convenient and relaxing lodging to family members of patients who are far from home. We believe the Chikasha House can help bring peace of mind to patients and their loved ones facing this difficult situation."
The mission of the Chikasha House was fulfilled during the Wards' trip.
During their visit, they had high praise for the Chikasha House, hospital services, food quality and the exceptional customer service at both facilities.
"Everything is so convenient, everyone you meet here is extremely nice and the Okchamali' cafe makes a super fine Western omelet," Mr. Ward chuckled.
The experience also allowed the couple to visit, play dominoes and spend quality time with family members and not burden them to provide lodging.
"We didn't have to intrude on them," said Mrs. Ward.
A perpetual proponent of Chickasaw Nation health care, Mr. Ward shares his good experiences with his Texas friends and neighbors, most of whom are not familiar with the workings of the Indian Health System.
"I tell them I would put (the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center) up against any hospital in Texas, or anywhere for that matter. It is super clean and super nice," Mrs. Ward said. "Everything is first class all the way."
By a twist of fate, one of his good friends, an Alaska Native, visited the Medical Center and understood Mr. Ward's rave reviews.
"He was on his way to Arkansas for a wedding and he began to feel ill," said Mrs. Ward.
The friend called the Wards and got the address of the Chickasaw Nation Medical Clinic and made a visit. Later, the Wards heard rave reviews about his Chickasaw experience.
"He said, 'Man, I have never been treated like this – this is the nicest place I have ever been'," Mr. Ward recalled.
Mr. Ward is proud to be Native American. He strives to share that connection with the couple's seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He is also grateful for the Chickasaw Nation embracing and sharing resources with other Native tribes.
"Even though I am Choctaw, the Chickasaws take care of me like I was their own," he said.
Mrs. Ward echoes her husband's sentiments.
"The Chickasaws have helped us tremendously," she said.