AP PHOTOS: Volunteers flood Navajo Nation in virus outbreak

Under the watchful eye of Agathla Peak and just south of Monument Valley on the Navajo reservation, the Kayenta Health Center struggled under an onslaught of COVID-19.

The center’s only ventilator was in use on a patient in late April and, suddenly, the oxygen valve failed. Dennis Grooms of St. Louis spent the next three hours hand-pumping oxygen into the patient’s lungs until he could be flown to a larger medical facility.

“We had to keep him breathing,” said Grooms, an EMT volunteering with the Los Angeles-based Team Rubicon. The disaster relief organization pairs the skills of military veterans with first responders and medical professionals.

After his shift ended, Grooms walked the 10 minutes back to his housing through empty parking lots and quiet playgrounds carrying his uneaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a paper bag. He sprayed his shoes with disinfectant, put his clothes into the washing machine and decompressed while soaking in the bathtub.

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Still, he was glad to be there: “Almost every day you go back home from here you feel like you did something good.”

Federal officials called on Team Rubicon to help fill positions at Kayenta when much of the staff was unable to go to work. The group is funded by private donations.

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