Labrador History - 7.6 ACCIDENTS

Mary Taylor7.6 ACCIDENTS
I was soon back into the “daily round, the common task” once I returned to Labrador in late 1963. Of course, the clinics continued at the same time. While I was away, Mary Terryberry, a nurse from St. Anthony, relieved me and had kept busy. In later years she worked at the hospital in Blanc Sablon and spent days off with us at Forteau, so we became good friends.
We had our share of accidents too. The first one was the young man mentioned earlier who was working with the Department of Highways in Red Bay. The next involved an eight-year-old girl, who was hit on the head by a stone. She was vomiting but did not improve overnight so I sent her to Blanc Sablon for X-rays.
The last of this series of accidents was a toddler from L’Anse-au-Clair who chewed up a flashlight bulb. I got him to eat a cotton wool sandwich, and he went home next day none the worse for his adventure. I often had to improvise out on the lonely coast, but this little remedy I learned in Nurse’s Training. A “cotton wool sandwich” is bread and jam with wisps of cotton wool inside, the idea being to coat the fragments (of glass) so they don’t puncture the bowel. It usually works fine. I had a child in once, who had swallowed a large nail, so I used the same remedy. Next day he passed the nail - neatly wrapped in cotton wool!
Early in January 1964 I admitted a little boy of ten who ran into an oil drum at the bottom of the hill, which he had been sliding down on his komatik. There were a group of boys there, and his cousin brought him right into the clinic on the komatik, still unconscious! He regained consciousness, but had concussion, so we kept a close eye on him for a few days.
Sometimes the movement of patients became a bit like musical chairs. A few days after the incident of the boy knocking himself out on the komatik I had a patient in early labour that I sent to St. Anthony. There was no midwife on the mission plane that day, so I had to accompany the young woman myself.
While we were waiting for the plane to come, a young man came to the clinic with severe pain in his side, possibly caused by a kidney stone. I was on the spot, but there was little option but to take the young man along too, after giving him an injection for pain.
A still further complication was that another antenatal patient at the station, Ed John’s wife, Charlotte, was expecting her fifth baby at any time and I could not leave her for there was no one in Forteau to deliver the baby. She had to come on the plane too! After handing over my other patients to the staff at St. Anthony, Charlotte and I returned to Forteau on the plane, and Charlotte had her fourth boy next morning.
I was very busy in clinic that day, and had to send for the mission plane again, as one of the babies I saw appeared to have meningitis. There was a ‘flu epidemic raging, many children being quite sick, and we had difficulty fitting everyone in the nursing station! January was indeed a busy month that year, and we had over forty inpatients, including fourteen children.
Tragedy struck at this time on Belle Isle, a rugged island at the entrance to the straits between Northern Newfoundland and Labrador. Earlier, in the fall, I had admitted a young woman from Belle Isle, who was expecting her first baby and was very sick. She vomited everything she ate. I corrected her dehydration with an IV, but she continued to vomit and eventually I sent her to St. Anthony for assessment. She lost the baby.
Just after Christmas she had a check up in St. Anthony. When that was complete she took the mail plane directly back to Belle Isle, hoping to surprise her husband, who did not know she was coming. She had spent Christmas at Forteau, so he was not expecting her to return at that time. The pilot landed at the opposite end of the island from where she lived and three men met her with a snowmoboggan. They set off for the far end of the island as it was getting dark.
They never reached their destination.
When the snomoboggan did not turn up, a search was made and early next morning two men found tracks going over a cliff. There were no survivors. The mission plane, with a young doctor on board, collected the bodies and took them to St. Anthony for autopsy, as requested by the R.C.M.P. The whole coast was shocked by the news. Isolated communities on the lonely “coast” are like one big family, and everyone knows everyone else and feels for everyone else, so a tragedy like this causes shock and disbelief.
It was at this same time, only a few days later, that the baby from Capstan Island died as mentioned in a previous chapter. It was indeed a very sad time. That was the day there were two funerals, one in Forteau and one in Capstan Island.
In April I fought hard for a little premature baby, but lost him. Before delivering, the mother was losing blood and, as she had lost her first baby prematurely, I called Dr. Marcoux at the hospital in Blanc Sablon, who kindly came down for her delivery. This baby was premature too, weighing just over three pounds.
The baby’s condition was not good and I dared not leave him for long, so stayed up with him all that night. I was very busy at the time with several other sick children, and my concern was that I could not give the wee baby the care he needed. He was a precious little one to his parents, who were naturally concerned about him, so I called St. Anthony and asked for the baby to be transferred.
It took three days for weather conditions to improve to the point where he could be picked up and by then he was quite jaundiced. By then, too, I was exhausted. I had not slept, day or night, for those three days, nor even had time to change clothes! I did, however, learn that the Lord could sustain, even in trying circumstances. I decided; if I could not get the baby out that third day, I would call Dr. Marcoux and ask him to lend me a nurse. On Sunday morning, however, the plane came over with a nurse and with incubator on board and they took the baby to St. Anthony.
A few days later he died. It seemed all our efforts were in vain. God’s ways are not our ways and when we do not understand we have to trust Him. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8 & 9]
The little one’s parents were very sad but they were both believers, so had God’s comfort in their sorrow. Later they adopted a little boy who gave them great joy.
In August my friend Dorothy Tuckerjoined our staff in Forteau.
She was to be there for the winter, helping me ith the paper work, accounts, ordering supplies and many other things, so was a welcome addition to our family. “Aunt” Mary was delighted to have her company too. James, “Uncle” Joe’s son, was another welcome addition. He worked at the nursing station doing relief work, and drove the Red Jeep when there was an emergency, because Willis, who had come to us as maintenance man when Stewart left, did not drive. James came to work for us full time in 1967 and was there until he retired.
Towards the end of August, there was another casualty amongst the road construction crew working out of Red Bay. The crew was clearing land a distance from Red Bay when one of them, Ray (“Uncle” John Leyden’s son,) cut his ankle with an axe. The cut was bleeding profusely and the men panicked, but a cousin had the presence of mind to tear up his shirt and bind the wound tightly, probably saving Ray’s life. When I received the urgent message that evening, I contacted St. Anthony to see if the plane could come.
A workmate carried the patient on his back to the camp, and waited for the plane, for there was a large pond nearby. We had arranged that the plane would come in to that pond, but had no direct contact with the camp, depending on someone to convey the message on foot from Red Bay. By this time Ray had lost a fair amount of blood and was quite weak so, after some time and when the plane did not turn up, the men set off with the patient for Pinware River, where James and I were waiting with the Red Jeep.
Attaching a komatik to the back of a tractor, they dragged the patient on it, but the terrain was very rough and Ray found it too painful. The next plan was to make a stretcher and take turns carrying it. The plane, meanwhile, had gone to pick up the patient and, finding the men gone, the pilot landed at the mouth of Pinware River to wait. It was beginning to get dark by this time, so the pilot returned to St. Anthony, hoping to try again in the morning.
The men, by this time, had arrived on the other side of the Pinware River. There was a boat on that shore, linked to an overhead cable crossing the river, so the men brought Ray across to the waiting jeep. Reports I had been receiving caused me to worry about Ray, so it was a relief to find that the bleeding had stopped and his condition was fairly stable. I decided to take him to the nursing station before checking the wound. In the clinic, when I started to undo the rags around his ankle, I saw something throbbing, so I quickly did up the dressings again. I was afraid that bleeding would start again before the plane could get in next morning. I stayed with Ray all night to monitor his pulse and blood pressure, and early next morning the plane picked him up.
Later that day a doctor in St. Anthony told me Ray had a severed artery and tendon involvement. The actual wound was quite small and V-shaped, which explained why a pressure bandage controlled the bleeding. He had surgery and was in St Anthony for quite a while, returning later for a checkup.
Around this time I planned a visit to the U.K., for I had not been home for some time and needed to get away for a while. Earlier, that spring, Mona and George (with little David) had come back to Forteau, much to my joy, after wintering in Corner Brook. An apartment had been made in the basement of the new Gospel Hall that was built at English Point the previous summer, and this was where they stayed. In the meantime, while waiting for it to be finished, they stayed with “Uncle” Joe and his wife.
I enjoyed having another nurse with whom to discuss medical problems again and it was great to have them back. It wasn’t long before I paid them a visit. Mona was expecting her third baby and came to see me for her check-ups. When I discovered she was expecting twins she was delighted!
In some ways it was an awkward time to go away but, as events turned out, I was back before their big day.