By Mark Hebert

Deserae KillEagle talks about being tested for COVID-19


Daughters Jazzlyn and Kataya bookend their mother, Deserae KillEagle, in Dodson as the trio gets some fresh air after finding out Deserae had tested negitive for the COVID-19 virus.

What started as a fun, family trip to Billings ended in "Thank God everyone is safe" moment, but what lay in between for Dodson's Deserae KillEagle was an event she, nor her family, are soon to forget.

On Sunday, March 22, KillEagle announced on her Facebook page that she had been tested for the COVID-19 virus in Phillips County and the results were negative. Standing with her daughters Jazlynn and Kataya in a photo taken in Dodson by her sister, Francine (who, it should be noted, was a safe six-feet away), KillEagle's six-month baby-bump (congrats, Des and family!) is as noticeable as the three smiling faces.

It all started for Killeagle and her family the weekend of the Montana State Basketball Championships when Kataya, 14, had an orthodontist appointment in Billings that Friday, March 13. KillEagle said that her cousin, Teague Rutherford, who lives near Shephard, Mont., hitched a ride to the "Magic City" to spend the weekend there.

"I dropped him off and went inside to use the restroom," KillEagle said. "If it hadn't been for that, then I probably wouldn't have come in direct contact (with a person infected with the COVID-19 virus.)

KillEagle said that when she dropped Teague off, she also saw her cousin, and Teague's brother, Thomas, carrying a baby's car seat to his vehicle. Thomas would later test positive for the COVID-19 virus. Last Thursday Teague told the Billings Gazette (in a story entitled "Here's how 2 Billings families are living in quarantine" written by Phoebe Tollefson) that Thomas is 28 years old, has no underlying health conditions, but now "he's had body aches, headaches, a dry cough, chills, and night sweats. Food and drink have a metallic taste to them."

"Just seeing the condition he's in, for a healthy 28-year-old, it just makes me wonder about a 50-, 60-year-old dealing with this," Teague told the Gazette.

"We were a good six feet away," KillEagle said of seeing Thomas that Friday. "It had started to snow, and I told him to be careful."

KillEagle said that she spent about five minutes in the home and then headed back out and into Billings to start her weekend. She said she and her daughters, as well as niece Peyton in tow, all practiced social-distancing for the rest of the trip, heeding the advice of medical professionals' days before COVID-19 would start making local headlines.

"We were washing our hands constantly and anytime we ate, we ordered food to be picked up," she said. "We were taking every precaution, but it's crazy to think that the one place we thought we would be safe, with family, would be where this would all start."

KillEagle said that the news that Thomas had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus spread among family, friends, and acquaintances quickly (and she had already been informed.)

"My initial feeling was, holy crap, I could bring this back here and infect everybody," KillEagle said. "Of course, I am worried about my baby, but it was also what about my grandma, and my nieces, so initially I felt horrible and people were upset with me."

KillEagle said that rumors started to swirl on social media (including one in which Francine had been the one to Billings) and people started to panic on Facebook.

"I totally understand why," she said. "Everyone is fearing for their lives and we have such health disparities and lack of proper medical care on the reservation, I completely understood people's reactions. I just hope that everyone knows I was concerned too."

Because the weather took a nasty turn that Saturday, KillEagle and the girls headed home to Dodson cutting their weekend short. Three days after Thomas tested positive, KillEagle said she was tested for the COVID-19 virus in Phillips County. That Thursday, March 19, Peyton KillEagle (Wesley Jrs' daughter who battled and defeated liver cancer in 2018) was tested for COVID-19 and the results were negative. KillEagle was tested the next day.

KillEagle said she drove to Malta and was instructed by the medical staff at the Phillips County Hospital and Family Health Clinic to call when she arrived outside. She said when she pulled up, workers came to her car in "HazMat suits" and told her they would start the COVID-19 test.

"They told me they would stick it up my nose, pretty far, and when they did, I was pretty sure they had just touched my brain," she said. "Holy cow! My eyes were watering. I am glad I was tested after my niece because I don't think I would have let them touch her after that."

KillEagle said the medical staff released her and told her to use precautions. It was nine days later (in which she had zero COVID-19 symptoms) that she got the results from the test back, negative.

"It made my whole day so much better," KillEagle said. "My daughters and I took a walk down south and I was relieved."

KillEagle admitted that she is still somewhat scared about going out in public, because some people were very angry with her, but members of the public she ran into while buying groceries were polite and unabashed. (KillEagle said she bought a lot of groceries that day so she wouldn't have to go back out too soon.) Since being cleared and virus-free, KillEagle said she has continued to take lots of nice walks.

"But I have one friend who says, 'make sure to stay six-feet away from people'," she said. "I'm like 'Brenda, this is Dodson, Montana. I am probably not going to see anybody out this way'."

KillEagle said that medical professionals and her family helped her stay grounded while she was unsure if she was infected. She said that she still sees many people being careless and not taking the situation seriously, adding that people thought she had also acted carelessly.

"It wasn't like that at all, but I did feel like a monster," she said. "People need to be real, though, and take precautions."


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