Too Sick to Go Home, Too Poor to Get Better

Micronesian migrants struggle to access health care in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

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Ernest and Lenwa Joab outside their rental home in Enid, Oklahoma. Lenwa, as well as many other Marshallese living in the United States, is in poor health but cannot afford medical care. KRISTA LANGLOIS

BY KRISTA LANGLOIS | THE NEW TERRITORY ISSUE 04

Lenwa Joab has a soft, creased face and hands that rest motionless in her lap. She is 65 but looks older. Her husband, Ernest, is 66 but looks younger, his hair still thick and black except just at the temples, where it fades to gray. He sweeps a leaf blower across the yard of a tidy brick home on the east side of Enid, Oklahoma, while Lenwa sits in a wheelchair in the driveway, watching silently. One of their grandsons — Frederick, Tony or Peculiar, it’s hard to tell which — darts around the wheelchair and the Ford F-150 next to it, playing a game only he knows.

Lenwa doesn’t speak much. She had a stroke a few years ago, and has high blood pressure, diabetes and poor vision. She isn’t receiving any medical care.

Soon, snow will shiver through the bare branches [of the trees in the yard]. Her family worries that the coming winter will be hard on her, as it is on most elders who grew up without winter, who came to the United States to get better but are dying instead. Few imagined they’d die here, in a foreign land with Ford trucks in driveways and leaf blowers in yards.

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ISSUE 04 MADE POSSIBLE IN PART BY OUR SPONSORS

Missouri Wildflowers Nursery

The Red Earth MFA at Oklahoma City University

Issue 04 Sponsor: True/False Film Fest

The Arkansas International

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